29 Aug 2006

National Women's forum under way in Vanuatu

7:53 am on 29 August 2006

The first-ever National Women's Forum in Vanuatu is under way with 100 delegates spending this week mapping out an action plan for women's development to 2011.

The Minister of Justice and Social Welfare and one of two female MPs in Vanuatu's 52 member parliament, Isabelle Donald Sikawonuta, says it's an historic occasion because it's the first time so many women will work together to develop policies for the advancement of women of Vanuatu.

The aim of the Forum is to review and update the 1996 Beijing Platform for Action for Vanuatu, called Working Together for Women.

However, the director of Vanuatu's Department of Women's Affairs, Hilda Taleo, says progress in making the plan a reality has been lacking, because government commitment has been mostly on paper and not transformed into action.

The Coordinator of the Vanuatu Women's centre, Merilyn Tahi, is calling for a firm commitment to the advancement and support of women from Vanuatu's leaders.

Forum observers include Linda Petersen, who is the head of the Pacific Women's Bureau at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Other observers include Samantha Hung, Gender Issues Adviser at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Fiji and diplomatic representatives.