Today I co-convened, with Fijian Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa, a third meeting of Pacific women leaders to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls in our region.
These three meetings have been a highlight of this year for me, reinforcing our shared commitment to women’s resilience and leadership at all levels across the region. Women leaders have demonstrated their strength, dedication and vision as we shared strategic and practical solutions to protect vulnerable women and girls.
Today, we reflected on 2020 and on the challenges and opportunities that have arisen through COVID-19. We discussed women’s and girls’ safety, with a focus on e-safety and the importance of education and legal protections.
Looking ahead to 2021, we discussed COVID-19 vaccines and the hope that they bring, especially to the Pacific, where many countries remain COVID-19 free but have experienced significant economic impacts from the pandemic. Women will have an important role to play in vaccine preparedness and distribution.
We remain vigilant with respect to maintaining essential health services such as sexual and reproductive health, and maternal and child health. These remain critical priorities for the health of women and girls.
In the course of our discussions, we committed ourselves to strengthening our partnership in 2021, working through national, bilateral, regional and global forums to drive improved outcomes for women and girls of the Pacific region.
I look forward to further progress towards gender equality in 2021, through a substantial calendar of meetings for the region, including the 14th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women in April (Pacific Community), the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March, and if agreed by leaders, an annual Pacific Women Leaders Meeting as part of the Pacific Islands Forum agenda.
I wish all women leaders and their families across the Pacific a peaceful and Happy Christmas and a restful break of restoration and renewal. I look forward to working together in 2021.