Understanding Gender Inequality Actions in the Pacific: Ethnographic Case-Studies and Policy Options
January to November 2015
European Commission, DG International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO/EuropeAid)
Dr Tony Crook, Director, Centre for Pacific Studies, University of St Andrews
Centre for Pacific Studies’ research on gender inequality is a central strand of a long-standing research-policy partnership with the European Union (DEVCO/EuropeAid, EEAS, EU Delegations). Collaborations include the ESfO2010 conference in St Andrews, the 2011 European Development Days in Warsaw, the 2013 ‘Re-thinking Gender in the Pacific’ workshop in St Andrews & policy roundtable in Brussels, and the 2014 co-authored report ‘EU development strategy in the Pacific’ presented to DEVE committee at European Parliament.
Research aimed to unpick the thinking behind current gender policy in the Pacific, and to draw this into dialogue with research evidence of real-life practices and challenges, with the objective of delineating the shape and possibilities for an alternative research-policy agenda. The focus was on how a range of gender issues are conceptualised in the Pacific, and how we might go about discovering the dynamics in which these issues are practised and conceived in vernacular terms.
In 2014, DEVCO/EuropeAid commissioned a St Andrews-led international and interdisciplinary research team throughout 2015 to provide a ‘better contextual understanding of why achieving gender equality in the region appears to be so challenging’ with a focus on how cultural ‘subtleties are overlooked in mainstream analysis and programming’. Throughout 2015, a research team conducted studies in all three regions of the Pacific – Melanesia (Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu), Micronesia (FSM, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Palau) and Polynesia (Samoa and Tuvalu), alongside Pacific men and women’s involvements in globalisation mobility in certain fishing ports in the region.
- Ms Ramona Boodoosingh, Centre for Samoan Studies, National University of Samoa
- Professor Annelin Eriksen, Bergen Pacific Studies Research Group, University of Bergen
- Professor Sue Farran, Law School, University of Northumbria (& University of the South Pacific)
- Dr Fiona Hukula, National Research Institute of Papua New Guinea
- Dr Simon Kenema, Centre for Pacific Studies, University of St Andrews
- Dr Lynda Newland, Centre for Pacific Studies, University of St Andrews (& University of the South Pacific)
- Ms Angelina Penner, Bergen Pacific Studies Research Group, University of Bergen
- Mr Galumalemana Steven Percival, Centre for Samoan Studies, National University of Samoa Assistant Professor
- Dr Manuel Rauchholz, Institute of Anthropology, University of Heidelberg
- Ms Emilie Roëll, Development Consultant Associate
- Professor Penelope Schoeffel, Centre for Samoan Studies, National University of Samoa
- Ms Tammy Tabe, Bergen Pacific Studies Research Group, University of Bergen
In September 2015, 10 project team members convened for an intensive 4-day workshop focused on analysis and writing-up, ‘Understanding Gender Inequality Actions in the Pacific’, co-organized with Prof. Angela Hobart, and held at theCentro Incontri Umani, Ascona, Switzerland,
The report and findings were presented at a DEVCO InfoPoint Conference in November 2015. The research reported through a series of ethnographic in-country case studies which served as stand-alone briefing papers and which foregrounded a vivid picture of the circumstances that any future programme has to be able to deal with in an appropriately Pacific way.
Our research reports a series of findings that may well appear counter-intuitive to Euro-American assumptions – for example:
- Gender inequality in the Pacific is a complex of historical and contemporary relations, values and concepts being remade in a transforming regional context that is responding to globalisation in highly distinctive ways.
- Gender in the Pacific is not merely a matter of the biological difference between men and women: the research evidence suggests that rather than such properties of bodies, it is the actions performed that gender a person.
- The research casts serious doubt on the conceptual, social and cultural assumptions that underpin the current gender policy paradigm, and also suggests that the dominant models for levering ‘individual’ and ‘societal’ behaviour changes misunderstand the tenets of Pacific socialites.
The project’s research objectivewas: ‘To culturally analyse the roots of gender based violence and other specific manifestations of gender inequalities in the Pacific Islands region in order to provide the EU with all the necessary information to be able to formulate possible initiatives to address it’.
Drawing upon this research and 2016 published report, the EU signed a 11th European Development Fund financing agreement with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in 2017 for a €13m development programme to ‘tackle root causes of gender inequality and violence against women and girls in the Pacific’.
- 2015. Crook, T., Farran, S., Lind, C. & Roëll, E. Overview: European Development Cooperation on Gender Inequality in the Pacific – From Platforms to Actions [Download PDF]
- 2016. Crook, T., Farran, S. & Roëll, E. ‘Understanding Gender Inequality Actions in the Pacific: Ethnographic Case-Studies and Policy Options’, DEVCO ADM-MULTI/2014/353-796, https://bookshop.europa.eu/en/understanding-gender-inequality-actions-in-the-pacific-pbMN0216385/
- Action document for Tackling root causes of gender inequality and violence against women and girls in the Pacific, Annex II to the Commission Decision on the Annual Action Programme 2017 part 2 in favour of the Pacific Region to be financed from the 11th European Development Fund. [Download PDF]
- ‘EU Signs Financing Agreement with PIFS to tackle root causes of gender inequality and violence against women and girls in the Pacific’. Link to article.