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Date:
4 November 2010
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Warren Inkster
Media Advisor
The Speaker of the House of Representatives
T: + 64 21 243 0796

More women MPs needed in Pacific Parliaments & urgent funding required to fight HIV, TB and Malaria

Concerns about the lack of female representation in decision–making positions in the Pacific Region have been raised by New Zealand member of Parliament Dr Jackie Blue at the Commonwealth Parliament Association (CPA) regional conference in Australia.

A branch of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians was recently established in New Zealand, said Dr Blue. She hopes a Pacific branch can also be established to encourage and support increased participation of women in Pacific Parliaments.

Women in the Pacific face significant inequalities and to overcome these they need to be empowered politically, economically, educationally, socially and with good health. Having more women MPs means that there will be greater prioritisation of women's issues on the political agenda and in policy development, she said.

A paper was also presented at the conference by fellow New Zealand MP Charles Chauvel. He reported on the work of the Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and also on that of the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Mr Chauvel is a member of the Board of the Pacific Friends, and sits on the UN Global Commission.

Speaking about the Pacific Friends of the Global Fund, Mr Chauvel reported on the 3rd Voluntary Replenishment of the Global Fund last month, which fell over $US8bn short of its target. "The shortfall seriously sets back the fight against HIV, TB, and Malaria. Further work needs to be done to encourage private sector and civil society sources of funding, as well as rapidly developing countries,” he said. “Otherwise, we will retreat for the first time in history in eradicating some of the major health challenges facing humanity, which would be a disastrous scenario.”

Speaking on the work of the UN Commission on HIV and the Law, Mr Chauvel said that the Commission had identified 3 priorities for its work over the 14 months allowed for between now and its final reporting deadline at the end of 2011. "Empowering women, especially in developing countries, to insist on safe sex; assisting marginalised populations such as sex workers, HIV drug users, HIV-positive people and men who have sex with men; and improving access to HIV treatments are the three most obvious ways to use the law as a beneficial tool to contain the HIV epidemic," Mr Chauvel said.

A common theme in both New Zealand delegates' presentations was that gender equality legislation was a significant tool to influence health outcomes, accompanied by measures to tackle violence against women.

A copy of both members’ papers is available on request. It is the 30th CPA Australian and Pacific Regional Conference and is being held in Canberra, Australia. The conference concludes on Saturday, 6 November 2010.