4 Jun 2020

Pacific women leaders identify social pressures amid pandemic

6:23 pm on 4 June 2020

Pacific women leaders have urged governments and communities to ensure that women and girls are protected from violence related to strains caused by the pandemic.

Samoa's Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa

Samoa's Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa Photo: Dominic Godfrey / RNZ Pacific

The leaders met virtually last week to discuss the gender implications of Covid-19 in the Pacific.

Samoa's Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, and Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, were the convenors of the meeting whose participants included other ministers, MPs and senior civil servants.

They idenfitied core areas where women and girls have been disproportionately affected.

These include health impacts where women healthcare workers are at the frontline of the pandemic response.

The pandemic has also exacerbated unacceptably high levels of violence against women and girls in the region.

The participants said ensuring women health care workers had access to the resources to enable them to carry out their vital work safely and effectively was critical.

At the same time there was a need to continue other vital healthcare services, including maternal health and childcare.

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne in Suva

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne in Suva Photo: RNZ/Lice Movono

On economic impacts and recovery the leaders said women are over represented in sectors and jobs that are impacted significantly by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, such as retail and hospitality.

They said that with global supply chains disrupted, women migrant workers and women-led small and medium enterprises have also been heavily affected.

A number of countries in the region are also dealing with the impact of Cyclone Harold but despite these challenges, it was acknowledged women would have a vital role to play in the economic recovery of the region.