COVID-19 Response: Feminist practice and Localisation in Action

Since 2016, the Shifting the Power Coalition has been working together, across Pacific Forum countries and 13 organisations. We are committed to an inter-generational approach, empowering each other. We bring our traditional knowledge and lived experiences as first responders during times of crisis, tackling pre-existing gender inequalities, violence and socio-economic insecurities along the way. 


2020 has been a year when support for our partners, 13 women-led organisations including young women and women with disabilities networks, across six countries, has enabled women to lead humanitarian action and raise their voices through local training, network building and research – all of which help strengthen their advocacy and engagement with local and national decision makers.

“In Samoa the solidarity we experienced through the Shifting the Power Coalition during the measles epidemic has been an important reminder that coalitions are away of strengthening our collective and combined power and pooled resources and expertise to be able to influence policy and decision makers. We are working together to highlight that local women’s leadership is critical to COVID-19 prevention and response and better disaster preparedness. It ensures a more inclusive response” says Taimalelagi Ramona Tugaga in Samoa.

Together 13 women-led organisations have focused on transforming gender relations by supporting women to demonstrate the power and potential of their leadership well beyond the humanitarian crisis.

In Bougainville, Agnes Titus, Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation combined her women, peace and security expertise and mediation skills to influence the composition of the regional disaster management committee:

“We spoke for the need to include women in the design table of this disaster management or recovery. I could see that you could hear a pin drop because it was the first time for these men who normally go to these meetings to hear that because we stressed the fact that women’s needs are actually different from men’s needs and so we have to take these things into account when we are preparing for disaster and recovery. So, I know that these things have come now to the table of the decision makers.”

As Pacific women we know that working to bridge the development, humanitarian and security divides is critical in responding to the impacts of crisis on women and girls. Right now, Covid19 and the climate crisis have combined to create intersecting health, economic and climate crises in communities says Helena Seneka of the YWCA of Papua New Guinea: “We are concerned about women’s emotional health because of the extra burden of care work in the home – managing household chores and playing teacher to their children. The increase in poverty levels means there is an additional challenge of maintaining menstrual hygiene. We are also aware that many young women and girls may be facing harassment and violence at home.”

The most effective responses, she says, work across the peace, development and humanitarian nexus, and engage local organisations to sustain interventions over the longer term rather than just on a short-term relief basis.

Following a rapid regional assessment across the STP Coalition in March, the Coalition advocacy brief Mobilising Women’s Leadership: Solutions for Protection and Recovery in a Time of COVID-19 and TC Harold provides a series of recommendations for regional and national action. It provides examples of the gender impacts of COVID19 and TC Harold on women’s economic, health and food security, as well as community and personal security. Read the recommendations here:  Shifting the Power Coalition Advocacy Brief and Mobilising Women’s Leadership.