April 25 2011

PRESS RELEASE

Pacific Needs Strong CEDAW Candidate

THE PACIFIC must put forward a strong candidate for upcoming elections to a key United Nations committee, says the Fiji Women's Rights Movement.  The Movement believes the UN committee which reviews state obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has a key role in pushing for the advancement of women in the Pacific region.

"We need someone from the Pacific on the 23-member committee, because more and more Pacific island countries are due to present their state reports on CEDAW compliance," said FWRM Executive Director, Virisila Buadromo.

To date only Fiji and Samoa have reported to the committee, but Vanuatu and the Cook Islands are scheduled to report this year, with other Pacific states to follow soon after.

"Samoa and Fiji have each had a candidate in past UNCEDAW elections, but we've never put all our support behind a regional candidate before," said Buadromo.

"We believe that Shamima Ali, who is a Human Rights Commissioner and head of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, is the type of strong candidate who could win a spot on the committee, especially with united Pacific support."

Ali has extensive experience in the lobby to end violence against women, and has been instrumental in building up a regional network to address violence. In recognition of more than two decades experience, commitment and advocacy, she was appointed by the UN to the Expert Group Meeting on the girl child, which was held in Italy late last year.

"Ali's experience in women's rights advocacy at the regional and international level, as well has her grassroots credentials as a long-time activist, make her a strong and strategic candidate for the region.  Also, her regional network would feed relevant and current information from the ground, so Shamima would truly speak for the Pacific," said FWRM Management Board member, Imrana Jalal.

Jalal, who has wide experience in the international human rights field, pointed out that there is little point in putting forward a Pacific candidate who is unable to win in the highly competitive election process, where 185 countries cast their votes.

"The candidate must have a credible profile internationally, a name that is recognisable, and State Parties and lobby groups with the resources and knowledge of the international law system who are prepared to lobby for her," she said.

"The Pacific does not have a lot of resources to split between competing candidates.  It's far better that we put all our support behind a single strong candidate, and we believe Shamima is the best person for the job."

Pacific leaders will meet to decide on a regional candidate at the 10th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women (27–31 May 2007) and the Third Pacific Ministers Meeting on Women (1 June 2007).

ENDS.