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Women, Development and Empowerment: A Pacific Feminist Perspective


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Amelia Rokotuivuna welcomed participants and on behalf of the Organising Committee explained the background to the workshop:

The idea of the workshop was first suggested in Kuala Lumpur in a meeting between Noeleen Heyzer, of the Asian and Pacific Development Centre's Women's Programme and Vanessa Griffen and Amelia Rokotuivuna. APDC's Women's Programme had intended to carry out an assessment of the needs of women in the Pacific, and was considering the possibility of a workshop. It was felt that it would be useful to have a workshop to assess the needs of Pacific women but also to review what progress and development had occurred in the UN Decade for Women. In a 1975 Pacific women's conference, participants had discussed a range of issues that concerned their lives, analysing their place in Pacific societies. This sort of discussion and analysis had lapsed and while many developments had happened since 1975, a critical view of the position of women in their countries had not been pursued.

During the United Nations Decade for Women international attention had been drawn to “Women and Development” issues. In this period, a great deal of money, energy and resources had been poured into the Pacific through international agencies, regional agencies and through Pacific governments and projects for women had become a focus of attention. Women had become more involved as implementers of projects, many of which had not always been initiated by women. It was felt that there was a need to analyse these activities and their contribution to improvements in the status of women. In the opening of the 1987 workshop, Amelia Rokotuivuna, page break the workshop coordinator, explained why such a workshop was needed:

We have spent our time, our energy, our intellectual resources, in implementing and monitoring projects. Pacific women have spent very little time since 1975 reflecting on or thinking about where women are now - in our society, in our government, in the churches, in the family - and whether there has been changes in the social structures in the Pacific to benefit women.

Following preliminary discussions in Kuala Lumpur in 1986, an organising group was set up to plan for the workshop in Fiji. The aim of the workshop was to gain a perspective on developments related to Pacific women and to enable participants to examine issues affecting Pacific countries and the region as a whole. It was felt important that at the Pacific workshop, analysis of “women and development” be guided by a broadly feminist framework, for assessments of the position of women in the Pacific, whether it had improved and in what ways.

The guiding objective of the 1987 Pacific workshop was therefore to enable Pacific women to assess developments in the region affecting them and to consider strategies for the empowerment of women in a real sense - socially, economically and politically. The workshop was therefore titled “Women, Development and Empowerment”. A second major objective of the workshop was to attempt to arrive at a feminist perspective that would be meaningful and relevant to women's lives in the Pacific, and contribute to their activities and work.

Black and white print - pacific design.