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Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development

Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development is a collection of photos from across the Pacific highlighting the important role of women to the region’s development. The exhibition focuses on the themes of women’s leadership, economic opportunities, and safety. Nations will only thrive when women are supported to fully participate in political, economic and social settings. These photos represent the countless Pacific women and men already leading the charge on female empowerment, working with their communities towards a lasting change.

Find out more about these photos

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Two women in a radio broadcast studio.

Photo: Jacqueline Smart Ferguson / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Radio announcer Shirley Walai and investigative journalist Carol Umbo at NBC’s studios in Lae, Papua New Guinea. Less than half [external website] of Papua New Guinea’s population is literate. Radio and television coverage are by far the best way to communicate with people across the country, and building the voices of the industry’s female journalists ensures that their views are represented. A strong, diverse, and well-functioning media plays a pivotal role in providing information on government decisions and current events to local communities. This means Papua New Guineans are better informed about the key issues in their country, such as gender equality, and are able to effectively participate in the country’s development.

Women participating in a women's comittee.

Photo: Sally Sitou / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

A women’s committee on Manono Island, Samoa addresses the development challenges of its community. There are just four villages located on the island, with a total population of about 1,000 people. The women in the committee represent Apai village and are working together to tackle some of the major poverty challenges the island is facing. A Samoan proverb best describes the drive demonstrated by the committee: E au le inailau a tamaitai, which means, 'Women achieve what they set out to achieve'. The group has arranged to purchase water tanks [external website] for their village, which has not had access to fresh drinking water since the 2009 tsunami damaged the underwater pipeline.

Barina Waga, Nauru's first female lawyer.

Photo: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Barina Waga is the Principal Legal Officer with the Department of Justice and Border Control in Nauru. She is also Nauru’s first female lawyer. In a country with no female representation in parliament, Barina’s position sends an important message about the contribution Nauruan women can make to their country, if given the opportunity. She sees her role as a chance to encourage other girls and women to pursue their career goals and play a part in Nauru’s growth and development. “I am a strong believer that the people of Nauru are the solution to the problems we face in Nauru,” she says.

Shamima Ali, the Director of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, talking in front of a camera.

Photo: Maggie Boyle / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Shamima Ali is the Director of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre. She is a staunch human rights activist and feminist, campaigning tirelessly on behalf of women across the Pacific. Shamima has worked at the centre for more than 20 years. She started out as a volunteer counsellor and eventually worked her way up to providing extensive training programs across the region. Much of ending violence against women is to do with changing attitudes towards women. The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre has trained police and military officers in women’s rights, conducted workshops in villages, and carried out awareness campaigns at the community level throughout Fiji. 'Our key achievement has been to show that domestic violence is not a private matter. Violence against women is now a public concern and the Government of Fiji accepts responsibility for addressing it as an abuse of human rights,' says Shamima.

Magistrate Linda Rau presiding over an outdoor village court.

Photo: Michael Wightman / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Magistrate Linda Rau at Kila Kila Village Court, outside Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. Linda was appointed a village magistrate in 2005. She was the first female magistrate in her village [external website]. For Linda, working at the village level meant being closer to the justice needs of the community. Improving law and justice is essential to laying the foundations for sustainable development, and a safe, just and secure society. Increasing the number of female magistrates is an effective way of giving women a greater voice in decision-making and will help break down the male dominance of Papua New Guinea’s judicial system.


Economic Opportunities

A woman standing in the shallows collecting shellfish.

Photo: Lorrie Graham / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

A woman is collecting shellfish along the causeway in South Tarawa, Kiribati. While men are sent out to fish in deep ocean waters, the women of Kiribati will stay close to the shore and collect shellfish. About 77 per cent [external website] of urban households in Kiribati do not have canoes to access lagoons for other types of fishing. As a result, shellfish are an extremely important source of food for I-Kiribati people. While women across the Pacific have dominated subsistence fishing for years, in recent times their fishing activities have become increasingly commercial [external website]. More women are selling their catches at local markets and generating small-scale incomes for their households.

Fish on display at a market.

Photo: Rob Maccoll / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

A woman selling fish at a market in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The women of Solomon Islands are significantly improving the lives of their families and communities by contributing to household incomes. 'The annual turnover of the Honiara Central Market has been estimated between AU$10-16 million, with women responsible for 90 per cent of this activity,' says Julie Gegeu-Haro, President of the Solomon Islands Women in Business Association. Supporting women in their entrepreneurial activities will benefit society as whole. Closing the gap between men and women in the workforce will mean higher income for families, less poverty, and a stronger investment in the future.

A woman helping a young girl use a sewing machine.

Photo: Rob Maccoll / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Rose George, pictured with her daughter Lilly, is part of a women’s sewing group in Vanuatu. The group meets at the office of local community organisation Wan Smolbag. Based in Vanuatu, the organisation is well-known throughout the Pacific for its popular ‘Love Patrol’ program. Wan Smolbag uses drama and theatre to inform the public and encourage discussion on development issues ranging from reproductive health and HIV/AIDS through to environmental protection. The name means ‘one small bag’, which is what the staff used to keep their props in when they first started out over 20 years ago. The group’s work goes far beyond performance these days. They also help communities tend to organic gardens, provide cooking and hospitality facilities, and offer literacy and sewing classes. Sewing classes build women’s skills and help them to produce clothes for their families and to sell at local markets to supplement their household’s income.

Fijian women standing in front of a garden.

Photo: Maggie Boyle / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Women from Naviyago Village in Fiji learn how to build and cultivate garden beds, rotate crops and plant vegetables as part of a gardening project. Food security presents a major challenge in Fiji. More than 50 per cent of the population lives in urban settlements and there are increasing rates of poverty. Local non-government organisation, the Foundation for Rural Enterprises and Development (FRIEND), is teaching communities about the different types of gardening based on their environment. Communities by the sea, for instance, often have sea crabs getting into their gardens, so they have been shown how to build raised and hanging gardens. Women are also taught about selling their produce to earn an income. 'I don't go to the market anymore, I plant what I need. Even though my husband has a salary earning $30 to $40, now I can manage to save $10 to $20 from doing my gardening, selling the extras here in the village and at the nearby school,' says Adi Sereana Naika, from Naviyago Village (pictured right).

A woman working on a distribution board.

Photo: Aaron English / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Nancy Marida is completing her Certificate III in Electro-technology at the Australia Pacific Technical College in Papua New Guinea. The college operates in partnership with local industry to build the skills of local workers in sought after trades. Nancy represents a big step forward in breaking down perceptions about women’s roles and abilities in the workplace by entering what is still a male-dominated field. She is employed by PNG Power, a state-owned company providing electricity across Papua New Guinea. When she finishes her studies she will be better qualified, have stronger skills, and be able to earn a higher income.


Violence against Women

A woman reading a brochure titled 'Domestik Vaelens.

Photo: Rob Maccoll / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

A woman reads a brochure on domestic violence at the Port Vila vegetable market in Vanuatu. Sixty per cent of women in some Pacific countries have experienced physical or sexual violence by their husband or partner at some point in their life. Violence against women occurs among all age groups, education levels, socio-economic groups and religions. The Vanuatu Women’s Centre has been leading the charge to combat this abuse of human rights by producing community education materials and running awareness campaigns. The centre also provides counselling services and legal advocacy for survivors of domestic violence.

Four women with the slogans, 'Respect Me', 'Protect Me', 'Support Me, and 'Hear Me' printed on their t-shirts

Photo: Jeremy Miller / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Members of the Solomon Islands Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) march in support of female rights during International Women’s Day in Honiara. Jean Lele is a kindergarten teacher, Jocelyn Lai a Board member, Alice Kale the General Secretary, and Pauline Soaki a former Board member. Women in Solomon Islands experience high rates of violence, are underrepresented in parliament, and face numerous barriers to accessing financial and economic opportunities. Organisations such as the YWCA are bringing women together to make their voices heard by providing support and training on issues such as women’s leadership, human rights and reproductive health rights.

Children carrying a flag with the words 'White Ribbon Day, 25 November'.

Photo: Michael Wightman / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Papua New Guinean children, men and women show their support for putting an end to violence against women during a White Ribbon Day march. There is no specific legislation criminalising domestic violence in Papua New Guinea. The criminal court does not differentiate between assault committed in the community or in the home. After an official visit to the country [external website], UN special rapporteur Rashida Manjoo identified violence against women in Papua New Guinea as a 'pervasive phenomenon' often involving family members. The unity shown by men, women and children on White Ribbon Day is an important reminder that violence against women impacts on society as a whole.

Young people holding candles. Two women have tape over their mouths.

Photo: Maggie Boyle / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Young human rights activists in Fiji campaign for gay rights and an end to violence against women on International Women’s Day. Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Penny Williams, views violence against women as a fundamental development issue [external website]. 'It prevents women from contributing fully to their communities and from participating in the economy,' she says. During a visit to the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre on International Women’s Day, Ms. Williams praised the centre’s work on building awareness of women’s rights across not just the country, but the entire Pacific region. In particular, engaging men and boys on violence against women and training male advocates has been an important step in bringing this assault and discrimination into the public’s mind.

A woman marching and speaking into a megaphone.

Photo: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Women in Port Vila, Vanuatu, march in support of ending violence against women. Led by the Vanuatu Women's Centre, UNIFEM Vanuatu and the Department for Women's Affairs on White Ribbon Day, the women marched through the city to bring attention to an issue that is prevalent across the country. More and more, advocacy efforts such as this are shining a light on the plight of women in Vanuatu. Once named the happiest country on earth [external website] because of the apparent wellbeing of its people, awareness campaigns and marches are making public the violations against women which for too long have been buried beneath the surface.


Last reviewed: 1 November, 2013