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Women Speak Out! A Report of the Pacific Women's Conference. October 27 – November 2


page II

Black and white photograph of women wearing the Pacific Women's Conference t-shirts.Black and white photograph of a Pacific Island woman.page III Forword

The idea for a Pacific Women's Conference was first voiced in Papua New Guinea in 1974, at a meeting of the Young Women's Christian Association's Public Affairs committee in Port Moŕesby. The idea in itself was good and it was felt that International Women's Year was an excellent opportunity for such as convention. Later on in the year, the idea was endorsed by a meeting of regional women students at the University of the South Pacific. From there contact was made with women and women's groups in the region for ideas and responses and plans went ahead for securing funds. A planning committee for the conference was formed and an organising secretary appointed. Then began the task of bridging the communication difficulties that the Pacific provides, to draw as many Pacific women as possible into planning the conference.

At one of the earliest meetings of the Planning Committee, it was decided that we work on the situation of women in the Pacific, as defined by ourselves, and that we discuss the issues that concerned us and which were relevant to the Pacific.

A programme for encouraging ideas and feedback from women in the Pacific was launched through letters and also the media.

Of course things took time. Immediate reactions and responses were sometimes received, others remained unclear about the aims and objectives of the conference, tending to think it was some plot to do with ‘Women's Lib.’. But mostly, the response was one of interest, as better communication was made. This demonstrated the very real concern women in our region had for examining their role and status in their societies, particularly the conflicts between the traditionally defined role and status of women, and the new impetus for women to develop to their full potential.

We decided to start with an examination by women of the institutions in society which mould us, defining our role, and restricting an emergence outside of this. It was there page IV that the conflict lay. Thus, the focus of the conference came to be on the forces that shape women in society - the family and traditional culture, religion, education, the media and the law and politics. These were the institutions that we discussed in panel sessions and later in workshops during the week of the conference.

As you will see from this report, the conference reached far beyond this, beyond what are considered ‘women's issues’, showing that women of the Pacific are concerned about all that is happening in their particular nations and in the region. This concern was expressed in the follow-up action of the conference resolutions.

Above all, women at the conference felt the need to express more clearly at national and regional level, their continuing concern for what is going on affecting their lives. This is reflected in the commitment by the women at the conference to set up a Pacific Women's resource centre, one of the resolutions we hope to see a reality.

It would be difficult to sum up the feeling and experience of the conference. We on the Conference Planning Committee believe sincerely that the conference has been significant for the Pacific and that it has opened the way to an active and sustained concern for the interests of women in the region and the people of the Pacific as a whole.

Our thanks are many to the people who have supported the conference and helped in different ways, from contributions to its planning, to participation at the conference. We would like to thank very specially, the organisations that supported our conference – the Ministry of Women, Board of Global Ministers of the United Methodist Church of the United States and in particular Ms. Rose Catchings; the Canadian International Development Agency and in particular Ms. Ann Suther land; the Australian Council of Churches and Ms. Thelma Skiller. The Foundation for the Peoples' of the Pacific Inc. and Ms. Betty Silverstein and Ms. Lurline Price; the world YWCA and in particular Ms. Elizabeth Palmer and Ms. Ruth Lechte; the YWCA of Canada; the Presbyterian Churches of the U.S.A. and Ms. Lois Montgomery. We are grateful for this support and page V on behalf of the Planning Committee and the conference, extend our sincere thanks.

Claire Slatter

, Organising Secretary, Planning Committee, Pacific Women's Conference, 1975.