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Women, Development and Empowerment: A Pacific Feminist Perspective



Black and white title graphic.

Our Vision

The Family

The family as an institution has a profound effect on the lives of women, on how they view themselves and on how society views them. It is therefore important for women to change the power relations between and the roles of husband and wife, and male and female members of the family so that male and female members have equal status and interchanging roles.

It is in the family that children first learn attitudes about women in society and it is important that the family encourages and teaches an egalitarian view of society and women. Unless egalitarianism is practised in the family there is little hope that children will grow up with a humanitarian view of the world.

Our vision of the family therfore includes the following:

  • a better world for women in the family

  • equality between family members in terms of status and responsibilities

  • equal distribution of family resources

  • equality in child rearing

    page 112
  • eliminating all forms of domestic violence

  • working with other women in our family

  • reproductive control by women

  • equal rights to the wealth generated by the household

  • equal status of common law wives

  • elimination of sexual abuse of children (incest) in the family


Education should provide useful knowledge for us as women to be able to understand the societies we live in. It is important for us to have access to all forms of knowledge. Knowledge is essential to enable us to analyse our specific situation as women and to transform society.

Our vision of education requires the following:

  • equal opportunities for women to pursue studies at all levels without restrictions

  • training of women by other women in traditional skills

  • broadened training opportunities for women

  • challenging the present concept of education so that all forms of knowledge are seen as equally important

  • equal opportunities to pursue knowledge in all areas and all levels

  • challenging the content of education at present in the Pacific which is not suitable for village life especially where there is so much unemployment in the urban areas

  • eliminating sexist content in school curriculum

  • changing the present situation where the acquisition of knowledge through formal institutions is disproportionately rewarded with power and status in the community.

Black and white print - pacific design.

page 113


We recognise that religion is an entrenched system in Pacific societies. However, as women, we question some of the basic doctrines and practices of the major religions in the Pacific because they repress and exploit people, especially women.

Our vision therefore includes:

  • challenging and changing the interpretation of religious teaching and values

  • challenging the oppressive and exploitative aspects of and the acquisition of wealth and land by the churches especially through women's fundraising

  • religious teaching should speak to the present situations in countries, projecting positive images and non-exploitative marriage arrangements for women

  • changing the focus from building edifices to delivering services and housing to people.

  • challenging the rise of fundamentalism and proselytising within Christianity and the Islamic faith

  • opposing the compulsion to participate in church rituals and acitivities and to contribute funds to church causes


Women are the most economically-exploited group in society and as such are committed to transforming the economy to a more equitable system. This system must ensure the equal distribution of resources for production and of development benefits.

Our vision of the economy is one which allows:

  • equitable access to productive resources and capital

  • equitable distribution of wealth generated by the people

  • using resources in ways that benefit the whole society and not just a small proportion of the people

  • sovereignty in choosing trading partners

    page 114
  • sovereignty in choosing an economic system

  • self-sufficiency

  • economic independence of women


We know that our natural environment is explited senselessly for the short-term gain of the few, with dire implications for everyone. We believe we must take action to stop this exploitation and conserve and replenish our resources.

Our vision includes:

  • natural environment: using the natural environment with respect and only to meet immediate needs

  • ensuring collective (rather than individual) control over natural resources, including land, recognising that the environment is the source of all our basic needs

  • opposing the “rape” and pollution of the natural environment

  • supporting a nuclear-free Pacific

We also believe in the necessity to create a safe, healthy and liveable environment in which the basic needs of all people are adequately met.

Our vision is therefore:

  • social environment: creating an environment where basic needs are met

  • creating an environment in which all people may live without fear or insecurity

  • creating a non-violent environment and opposing militarism


We believe that the present political system does not allow wide participation, equal representation and collective responsibility. Politics is the system through which decisions affecting our lives and futures are made.

page 115

We therefore demand:

  • equal participation for women at all levels in the political process and system

  • consultative, participatory decision-making

  • collective rather than hierarchical decision-making

  • consensual rather than confrontational or competitive discussion

  • freedom of political self-expression except where this counters human development

  • universal suffrage and widest representation in the parliamentary system

  • elimination of discriminatory practices in the legal system and in the constitution

  • political self-determination for colonised people

  • opposing Western political manipulation

  • non-aligned policy and recognition of the sovereign right of states to determine their relationships internationally.

Black and white cartoon of a woman addressing the mayor.

The Tribune: IWTC, New York, June 1989

* The statement “Our Vision” was drafted at the Workshop, read to participants, added to and accepted by the Workshop as the beginning of a feminist framework for Pacific Women's strategies and hopes.