IWTC Women's GlobalNet #281

Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide 

August 30, 2005



Thousands of civil servants, church leaders and the public at large have joined women civil servants who are in the fifth week of a strike for better wages in Tonga, a constitutional monarchy in the South Pacific. The women gather each day with their children outside the Prime Minister's Office in the capital city of Nuku'alofa in their seemingly endless struggle for economic justice.

The Queen of Tonga, HRH Mata'aho, is in Beijing, China, heading a four-member delegation from Tonga to the tenth anniversary commemoration of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 1995, and the resulting Beijing Platform of Action for the advancement of women and girls.

In 2003, the Government of Tonga approved the National Policy on Gender & Development, which highlights 10 critical policy areas for the equitable development of women. One of the policy areas is Gender and the Economy where it clearly states that women must have access to equitable salary and employment conditions.

The Government of Tonga has also made international commitments to, for example, the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] and the Convention of the Rights of the Child [CRC]. MDG Goal #1 states that all state parties, including Tonga, must take steps towards achieving the reduction of universal poverty. MDG Goal #2 looks at universal access to primary education. MDG Goal #3 clearly states that governments must ensure that progressive steps are made towards the empowerment of women.

"Just look at these hundreds of women turning up everyday peacefully in search of their economic rights and their children's right to a good education" says spokesperson for Tongan Women's Actions for Change (TWAC), 'Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki. "They are suffering because the government is not willing to sit down and dialogue with them in search of common ground." Emily 'Esau, another member of TWAC added that "the strong support and solidarity from women's groups in the Pacific region has been tremendous."

TFor more information, contact Tongan Women's Actions for Change [TWAC], Secretariat: C/O Coconut Production, PO Box 2281, Nuku'alofa, TONGA. Tel: +676-22721 or 14625. Email: baby_ofa@yahoo.com


Ten years after the United Nations conference on women's rights in Beijing, 1995, and just weeks before the Millennium Development Goals Summit of world leaders to be held at UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on the international community to turn their commitments into action to achieve full gender equality.

Since 1995 some progress has been made, but old challenges such as discrimination and violence remain while new challenges have emerged, such as HIV/AIDS and trafficking in women and children, Mr. Annan said in a message, delivered by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour to Beijing 2005, the 10th anniversary commemoration there of the Fourth World Conference on Women.

"What were once called women's issues have been transformed into matters of primary national and international significance. Stronger women's networks and alliances have taken shape across issues and borders alike. And we understand, more than ever, that no single policy will ensure gender quality; rather a comprehensive policy approach is needed," he added.

He noted the findings of the Commission on the Status of Women earlier this year that many gains had been achieved, including greater access to employment and decision-making, better education and a longer life.

"But they stressed that old challenges remain, such as discrimination and violence, and that troubling new challenges have emerged, such as the terrifying growth of HIV/AIDS among women, and the odious, increasingly common practice of trafficking in women and children." he said.

"Let us not forget that women's rights are human rights. Their full implementation at the national level is thus a legal obligation. Although that may seem, and should be, self-evident, it is a point we must continue to repeat as we move to strengthen the ability of the United Nations system to support national efforts to implement human rights, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women."

Mr. Annan stressed that leaders at next month's 2005 World Summit at UN Headquarters in New York should pledge their support to all efforts to achieve the changes to which national governments, international organizations and civil society committed themselves in Beijing 10 years ago.

"Let us all redouble our efforts to turn those commitments into reality, he said. "At this commemorative meeting, you can help to steer them in the right direction." From UN News. 2005-08-29

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