PhD Seminar: The Gender Equality SDG and Tanna Women (Vanuatu)

The gender inequality situation across the globe for women/girls and other gender minorities remains completely unsatisfactory and unequal in many regards. The United Nations’ high-level policy response to this crisis is to included ‘gender equality and women’s empowerment’ as a stand-alone goal (# 5) and cross-cutting theme within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2015-2030. Achieving the SDG 5 is demanding an unprecedented coalition of countries, organisations and people to turn the goal into reality, and yet progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment has stagnated in many regions of the world (Sachs et al., 2023). Many are asking the top-down question ‘what is preventing countries/regions from achieving SDG 5?’ However, minimal empirical research has been published from the ground-up asking ‘is SDG 5 relevant and useful for local women who are already adapting to and mitigating the effects of social and environmental changes?’

This study seeks to address this knowledge gap via constructionist, feminist and appreciative research with a group of women from the island of Tanna (Vanuatu, a small island developing state of the Blue Pacific region). Despite the substantial discrimination and harassment ni-Vanuatu women face every day in their workplaces, communities and homes, they are not passively suffering their situation – the women who participated in this research (and the ni-Vanuatu advocates and authors who came before them) are clear on what should/could be done to address the many issues they raised. Data was generated via interviews, deep listening, participant observation, participation in village life, and archival research. The data were then examined for the many ways they intersect with SDG 5 at two levels (i) the Vanuatu Government gender equality policy and (ii) the Tanna women’s everyday challenges and aspirations, to show which of the women’s ways of knowing and doing gender equality is highlighted or cast into shadow by SDG 5. The findings of this research seek to contribute to international development conversations on the design of the next (post-2030) UN sustainable development agenda and ways to enable a more gender-just and holistic global goal.


About the Speaker

Rachel England is a feminist environmental scholar who focuses on interdisciplinary research to explore topics relating to sustainable development, climate change and gender in Australia and the Pacific Islands. Rachel’s work life spans over eight years in university research and teaching, 10 years in private consulting (Alluvium Consulting Australia), and five years in Australian Government policymaking (Defence, Environment, Agriculture, Biosecurity). At the ANU, Rachel is a PhD scholar at the Fenner School of Environment & Society, previous convenor of the undergraduate/postgraduate course Environmental Policy, Board Member of the ANU Pacific Institute, ANU representative on the RMIT Jean Monet Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Network, and the Executive Education Manager at the Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions (ICEDS).