Humanitarian responses have traditionally been controlled by male-dominated international bodies, leaving little space for women in affected communities to lead. As a result, women’s rights and needs are rarely prioritised. The Pacific is experiencing a significant increase in climate-induced humanitarian disasters. In this context, ActionAid Australia is a member of the Shifting the Power Coalition (StPC) supporting diverse pacific women to lead emergency response and take power back into their own hands – ensuring disaster response, humanitarian and climate action.
Since 2016, the Shifting the Power Coalition has worked across six countries and partnered with 13 organisations including the Pacific Disability Forum, ActionAid Vanuatu, Fiji Disabled People’s Federation, Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation – Bougainville, Talitha Project – Tonga, Transcend Oceania – Fiji, Vanuatu Young Women for Change, Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association, Vois Blong Mere Solomon and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands.
Today, spanning a network of close to 100,000 grassroots, intergenerational and inclusive movements in seven Pacific Island Forum countries, it is the only women-led regional alliance focused on strengthening the collective power, influence and leadership of diverse Pacific women to respond to disasters and climate change. Through its work, the coalition brings attention to women’s collective peacebuilding, community-led activism, Pacific-driven innovation and humanitarian expertise as well as Pacific women’s collective and personal lived realities.
The Shifting the Power Coalition’s (StPC) work has led to significant change on many levels, from increasing individual empowerment to shifting the power within communities and at the national and regional level. The Coalition are ensuring women’s needs and stories during crises are documented, heard, and listened to.
The Coalition is transforming gender relations in the Pacific through building the capacity of women leaders to engage in national disaster coordination mechanisms and decision making. This has contributed to increasing the role, visibility, and influence of women in disaster planning. Our work has contributed to developing:
- The first women-led response to TC Harold in Vanuatu, which ensured that the needs of women, including women with disabilities on the ground, were heard and responded to.
- Women-led preparedness efforts and responses to TC Yasa in Fiji, which documented diverse women’s needs and helped to provide immediate relief to communities affected; and
- Women-led COVID-19 responses in Fiji, PNG, including Bougainville, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu that are contributing to increased awareness within communities and support for vaccinations.
Since 2019, 6000 women from local clubs and networks have undertaken training on Women’s Leadership and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action to become part of national efforts to shift the power in disaster management and humanitarian action.
The Coalition has shown that access to information and space for women’s organising and convening is critical to enable women to engage in decision making and policy spaces. Through regional consultations and training programmes, the Coalition has brought together the perspectives of diverse rural women, women with disabilities, peacebuilders, humanitarian actors and young women through collaborative and mutual learning.
Listen to the voices of Pacific women humanitarians in the Shifting the Power Coalition here.
Keep up to date with the latest information on the Shifting the Power Coalition Facebook page.