Samoa is ready to present to the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (C.E.D.A.W.) Committee later this month following a three-day preparatory session held in Apia last week.
The Preparatory Session and Mock Dialogue was led by UN Women and facilitated by The Pacific Community’s (S.P.C.) Regional Rights Resource Team (R.R.R.T.) and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN O.H.C.H.R.) in partnership with Samoa’s Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.).
The session included a group of Government and NGO representatives in preparation for Samoa’s presentation of the Sixth periodic state report to the UN C.E.D.A.W. committee at its 71st session on the 26th of October.
C.E.D.A.W. is the international bill of rights for women. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
Guest speakers at the preparatory session included Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (M.F.A.T.) Chief Executive Office Peseta Noumea Simi who spoke about the International Human Rights Framework and the National Human Rights Institutions (N.H.R.I.), addressing the links between the principles of Fa’asamoa (the Samoan way of life) and human rights.
She said “the Government of Samoa is tasked with implementing the human rights conventions and [we] look at coordinating dialogue between all key players in preparing these reports. A state’s commitment to its international human rights obligations is also reflected in how it develops policy. International procedures can never be considered to be a substitute for efficient legal procedures at the domestic level. Human rights are made a true reality at the domestic level by the domestic authorities.”
Samoa was the first Pacific island country to ratify the Convention on 19 September 1992 and, to date, has ratified five of the nine core human rights conventions. Samoa is committed to human rights obligations and also actively participates in the Universal Periodic Review (U.P.R.), its reporting to the Treaty Bodies and by establishing a National Human Rights Institute housed in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Our fa’asamoa embraces inclusivity, respect, peace, love, and protection which are reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (U.D.H.R.). It is important to ensure that international conventions are being contextualized so that the people of Samoa are able to connect with these instruments and have a full appreciation of them in practice,” said N.H.R.I. representative, Tracey Mikaele
The Samoan Constitution, based on Fa’asamoa, provides for a bill of rights and solid ground to combat discrimination against women, guaranteeing equal rights before the law and prohibiting discrimination based on descent, sex, language, religion, nor preventing the advancement of women and children.
“M.W.C.S.D. is the focal point for the reporting and monitoring of C.E.D.A.W. but it is also our role to understand and promote the concepts of human rights within the context of our own culture, highlighting its relevance to the people of Samoa,” said the Minister for Women, Community and Social Development Faimalotoa Kika Stowers-Ah Kau.
For over a decade, Samoa has carried out significant efforts to address inequality, including, through legislation on equal pay in employment, on domestic violence as well as a constitutional amendment designed to improve women’s representation in the national parliament.
Executive Director of Samoa Law Reform Commission, Tele’ai Dr Mulitalo, shared with the participants the role and responsibility of her office in supporting efforts to review legislation, including those not meeting C.E.D.A.W. compliance.
“We should not just cut and paste laws from overseas. We must reflect on what laws are the most appropriate for our country, how laws can be adjusted and altered to reflect our culture but also promote establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights,” said Teleiai.
There has been progress with an increasing number of highly qualified professional Samoan women at the top echelons of public service, private sector and civil society where 38% of C.E.O’s and 60% of Acting C.E.O’s in the Public sector are women, and 74% of leaders in Civil Society are women.1
“UN Women is honoured to have the opportunity to work closely with the Government of Samoa as well as civil society actors in providing the most robust and transparent C.E.D.A.W. reporting process possible. The on-going strategy of UN Women is to support C.E.D.A.W. reporting and implementation, including providing technical assistance for the implementation of the Concluding Observations of the UN C.E.D.A.W. Expert Committee.” said UN Women Samoa Country Programme Coordinator, Papali’i Mele Maualaivao.
UN Women provides technical assistance and advisory services to the Governments and Civil Societies across the Pacific helping to strengthen national capacity to report on and implement C.E.D.A.W. committee recommendations.