Driving Accountability to Women’s Rights

Despite the many regional and national commitments to progressing gender equality and women’s rights[1], local women leaders continue to face barriers to the participation in the very local and national disaster coordination mechanisms to organise and influence decision making. Pacific Island women leaders are still regarded as vulnerable and beneficiaries even though they continue to be the first-responders for their communities and families.


Sadly, the experience then for many women and girls in local communities is that community, local and national disaster management systems and decision making do not take into account the diverse needs and interests of women and girls. Additionally despite a commitment to the localization agenda, international humanitarian agencies do not hold themselves accountable to supporting women and girls’ inclusion in leadership and decision making processes when they fly into a country following a natural disaster.

That is why ActionAid Australia, is demonstrating a commitment to shift the power in humanitarian action, through the Shifting the Power Coalition which brings together the leadership of 13 women leaders from across 6 Pacific Island countries to share experiences, collaborate and amplify recommendations so that more  diverse Pacific women’s voices, agency and decision making informing disaster preparedness, response and recovery at national and community level.

As women leaders come together through the Coalition from their work in community mobilisation, peacebuilding and disability rights, ActionAid Australia as a women’s rights focused humanitarian organisation supports Coalition members to engage in the humanitarian system.  Since 2018, DFAT’s  Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development is contributing to strengthening diverse women’s leadership in humanitarian action through the Shifting the Power Coalition project which is  linked to the the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration

This is extremely important for the members to be collaborating with a feminist partner to remove barriers to the participation of national, community-based and women’s rights organisations in the cluster system. This has meant there is a key opportunity to continue to build capacity of partners for meaningful engagement in humanitarian coordination, and transforming international actors’ attitudes towards working with local and national actors.

Together the Coalition members are also committed to inter-generational learning and leadership development. This was evident at the Training of Trainers on Women’s Leadership and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action which took place from the 7th-9th September in Nadi, Fiji where 35% of participants were under 30 years of age.

As national training plans are scheduled to roll out in 5 Pacific island countries Helen Seneka of the YWCA of Papua New Guinea and Taimamelagi Ramona Tugaga the General Secretary and Programme Coordinator of the Samoa Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) are finalising plans to conduct the training with young women from their organisations. A common focus for Adivasu Levu of  Transcend Oceania and Flora Vano of ActionAid Vanuatu is bring diverse rural women together including women with disabilities, as well as young women.

The localised training plans will be part of the overall commitment of the StPC to address the persistent barriers to their participation and shift the power to achieve gender equality including when there are local and national disasters or humanitarian crises.

[1] Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), the UN Conventions including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and commitment to the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda––StPC is committed to strengthen linkages with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Agenda for Humanity as well as the Pacific Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Pacific Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP).