23 Jan 2020

Legislating for gender equality needs to speed up in Pacific - World Bank

11:09 am on 23 January 2020

Most Pacific countries are still behind the rest of the world in removing barriers to women's economic participation and reforming discriminatory laws.

New research finds scholarships and persistence are paying off in efforts to get more women in the Pacific into senior government jobs.

Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

That's the finding of a new World Bank study, which analyses laws and regulations affecting women's economic inclusion in 190 countries.

Fiji, Kiribati and Samoa made the biggest improvements in the Pacific.

Fiji is listed among the top 15 most improved countries in the world for introducing paid paternal leave and increasing the duration of maternity leave.

But the Bank's manager for the project, Tea Trumbic, said women across the region still faced many challenges.

"Overall globally, but for the Pacific region as well, we see that the most room to improve is in our parenthood indicator. And most of the Pacific countries receive a score of zero in this area.

"They don't provide any of the options, which we find as good practices to new parents," she said.

Ms Trumbic said she hoped the report could be used by governments, policy makers and women advocates in the Pacific - and the world - to take stock and act to reform discriminatory legislation and regulations that hindered women's economic participation.

"On our website...you can find all the details by country and they can see where their countries - how [far] their countries have got to where we all should be. In many of these places you can see exactly what laws need to be changed," she said.

Ms Trumbic said her team was also running a social media campaign to collect stories from women all around the world.

Tanna women in traditional dress.

Tanna women in traditional dress. Photo: Vanuatu Tourism

"In our report we ask whether the law treats a woman in the same way as a man in these areas and we would love to hear from women's experiences in the Pacific Islands and around the world to let us know how difficult it is in their country to work compared to men.

"If they see whether they have more economic opportunities than their mothers or grandmothers and what could be done to change this and level the playing field for our daughters."

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