, , ,

The Levels of Progress of Women’s Empowerment in Vanuatu

women's empowerment in vanuatu
In the beautiful country of Vanuatu, a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands, there is a strong fight for women’s empowerment.

Gender Equality Measures

Vanuatu falls under the umbrella of the UN Women’s Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO) based in Suva, that covers 14 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICT). PICTs work with governments and civil society organizations, and the MCO works to progress gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Pacific through the four key programs:

  1. Women’s Economic Empowerment
  2. Ending Violence Against Women
  3. Advancing Gender Justice in the Pacific
  4. Increasing Community Resilience through Empowerment of Women to Address Climate Change and Natural Hazards Program

Violence Against Women

No sexual harassment legislation is in place in Vanuatu, and failure to comply with the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW, exists. There is also an unequal minimum age for marriage – 18 years for males and 16 years for females with parental consent.

Violence against women must be addressed in order to bring women’s empowerment in Vanuatu. According to UN Women, 3 in 5 women that have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women are often treated as property, and they deal with a culture of sexual abuse fostered through adolescence by male family members. Most women are accustomed to these roles and accept that it is normal for men to beat them if they are not obedient.

Economically Empowering Females

In regard to women’s economic empowerment, over half of women who make an income and live with a man earn about the same or more than their husband or partner; however, less than one in five has savings in the bank, and few women own any major assets on their own. In fact, more than 1 in 5 women had their earnings taken away by their husband or partner, who also has the ability to disrupt, or forbid, their female’s work.

The impacts of climate change also directly impact women’s empowerment in Vanuatu. Rising sea levels and changes in air and water temperature affect women’s traditional economic, agricultural and fishing duties. Natural disasters also increase women’s vulnerability to violence and deprivation. Humanitarian intervention is crucial for the improvement of this aspect of women’s empowerment in Vanuatu.

Thankfully, the MCO’s four programs seek to address these issues, and bring significant change to the levels and regions of women’s empowerment in Vanuatu.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr