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UK in Fiji

London 11:36, 09 Dec 2011
Suva 00:36, 10 Dec 2011
Last updated at 7:25 (UK time) 9 Dec 2011

British action in the Pacific on Human Rights

09 December 2011

High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell's Human Rights Day message from the Pacific, where she is speaking at the Emerging Pacific Women's Leadership Program conference in Vanuatu.
Vicki Treadell

International Human Rights Day is an occasion to pause, to reflect and to consider the point we have reached in a long journey. Our destination has yet to be reached. And there is more work to be done.

This year we have seen the extraordinary struggle for democracy throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Elsewhere in the world too, men and women, children and the elderly, across many societies, still face challenges to realise a fair world - equality of opportunity remains an ambition.

I file this blog from Vanuatu where I am attending the Emerging Pacific Women's Leadership Program conference. I find myself alongside strong female role models from the region, women who are empowered and seek to empower, to create networks of mutual support and learning. These women are leaders in their community.

The programme, an initiative of the US NGO Vital Voices, AusAID and NZ Aid, aims to help them in lifting women in their societies. So, I have cause too to pause, to reflect and to consider not just the gender imbalance in senior roles whether in government or in the private sector, but also the need to act to end discrimination and violence against women and girls which occurs in every country in the world. I am proud that gender equality and women's empowerment is a key priority for the British Government.

Chargé d’Affaires to Fiji Timothy Smart working with Femlink in Tongatapu

I have realised opportunity in my own organisation and, in part, I am here to share my life lessons with the delegates at the conference, having been invited to give the keynote speech at the closing dinner of the conference. But I am also here to be inspired, create new networks and connections as well as learn.

My fellow High Commissioners within the region have been active too and most recently their funding has included:

  • help to refurbish the Girl Guides Friendship Women's Hostel in Papua New Guinea which provides secure and affordable accommodation for young   women, and the establishment of a Women's Advisory Centre who seek advice on achieving financial independence through obtaining relevant skills, information and knowledge.
  • funding the establishment of art and craft booths at the Suva municipal market. The booths were set up as a means of sustainable income for rural women. The location is ideal because of its proximity to the Suva bus stations so it is a plus for the women vendors who have to travel from afar. They further funded a two-phase project for the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement. In its first phase, FWRM held a two-day Gender and Climate Justice Workshop attended by 17 young girls where they helped set-up a nursery. The seedlings were planted on International Women’s Day in a tree-planting campaign involving various sectors of the community.
  • funding a Community Radio Broadcast System in Tonga operated by Ma’afafine moe Famili (MFF) based in Nuku’alofa. This community radio will provide women in Tonga and civil society partners of MFF a channel for discussion and dialogue contributing to the strengthening of efforts for Good Governance, consolidating the Rule of Law and enabling sustainable development through participatory communication and
  • funding the construction of a counselling room attached to the existing Women’s Crisis Centre on Tarawa. The counselling room would create more privacy and freedom for clients to discuss their issues and concerns.

These are just some of the projects we are delivering across the Pacific. The funding may not be huge but it is well targetted to make a difference, small incremental steps which contribute to the agenda and the hoped for transformation to the lives these programmes touch. It is also in addition to the large levels of funding that the UK contributes indirectly through EU, UN and Commonwealth gender programmes.

In much of our work we seek partnership and collaboration. Working together leverages wider resource, skills & talent & engages people in common cause. I look back to the recent Pacific Island Forum, held in Auckland, and note that the 15 Pacific Leaders agreed to consider inviting the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Reference Group to undertake in-country consultations in their respective countries.

This bold step, undertaken in the spirit of collaboration and common cause, will help to address an issue which needs airing and understanding. It is a problem that particularly hits 50% of the regions talent, its women and girls. They have a rightful place in this vibrant region and, with that, they should enjoy the equallity of treatment and opportunity that those rights dictate they should have.

International Human Rights Day 2011
British action in the Pacific on Human Rights

Further information

More information about the FCO's work on Human Rights

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