Australian High Commission
Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, Comoros, Reunion Island (consular)

Signing Ceremony - UNDP-DAP Partnership to Support Gender Equality in Mauritius - Remarks by High Commissioner

Wednesday 1 July 2020 -Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare



Hon. Mrs Kalpana Devi Koonjoo-Shah, Minister of Gender Equality and Family Welfare

Hon. (Mrs) Anjela Speville, Chairperson, Rodrigues Regional Assembly (on Zoom)

Ms Amanda Serumaga, UNDP Resident Representative for Mauritius and Seychelles

Mrs Nirmala Bheenick, Senior Chief Executive, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare

Representatives of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare, UNDP and Australian High Commission

Members of the Press

Ladies and Gentlemen


A very good morning to all of you.

I am very pleased to be here today to mark the partnership between Australia, Mauritius and the United Nations Development Program to advance gender equality in Mauritius and support achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Gender equality is a cornerstone of Australia’s national, regional and international agenda.

Our efforts are aimed at securing greater cooperation and commitment amongst countries to tackle gender inequality which continues to undermine global prosperity, stability and security.

Our commitment to support this agenda at the international level is evidenced through Australia’s nomination of Ms Natasha Stott Despoja as a candidate to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) for the mandate 2021-2024 with elections in September this year. If elected, this would be the first time an Australian has served on the Committee in almost 30 years and reflects Australia’s commitment to working collaboratively with States to encourage equality before the law, end violence against women, promote women’s economic empowerment and enhance women’s leadership.

Ms Stott Despoja is well known to Mauritius and this region – as Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, she visited Mauritius with our Foreign Minister (Julie Bishop) in 2014 during Australia’s IORA Chairmanship. During this period, Australia was successful in working with other IORA member states including Mauritius to champion and embed Women’s Economic Empowerment as a priority for the region Australian and Mauritian cooperation within IORA to advance this agenda, including with UN Women, continues today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the imperative of supporting this agenda and initiatives that promote the economic security, health and safety of women around the world. Women are more exposed to COVID 19 as they dominate many of the essential industries and occupations critical to fighting the virus. Women comprise approximately 70 per cent of the healthcare workforce globally. We pay tribute to the frontline workers – women and men – here in Mauritius and around the world for their ongoing efforts to protect our communities.

Australia has been concerned about expected spikes in violence against women during the pandemic.

Global reporting indicates that violence against women and girls has intensified since the COVID-19 outbreak. And Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has launched a global information pack designed to help frontline workers in countries across the world assist domestic violence victims of technological-facilitated abuse, harassment, stalking and threats, exacerbated in the COVID-19 context.

Women will be essential to any economic recovery from COVID-19 given the disproportionate representation in impacted industries like the casual workforce and unpaid work undertaken.

Australia’s Foreign Minister and Minister for Women Marise Payne has been working with her international colleagues to draw attention to the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure that women’s voices are heard at the decision making table.

Australia and Mauritius have a shared interest in promoting gender equality:

o   We have been longstanding partners in efforts to tackle gender based violence – including through White Ribbon advocacy and supporting local NGOs assist survivors

o   promoting women in leadership and STEM – including through the Australian alumni and education institutions (like Curtin Mauritius) and their work to encourage greater engagement in STEM by girls and women

o   and supporting women’s economic empowerment, including in regional fora like the Indian Ocean Rim Association already mentioned, and through women’s mentoring programs across the region

o   Australia continues to support the AMFCE (Association Mauricien Femmes Chefs d’Entreprise) on its regional mentoring program as it progresses to the next phase in partnership with Australian female entrepreneurs to develop a digital platform for capacity building of women entrepreneurs in Mauritius, Rodrigues, Madagascar, Seychelles and Comoros. We look forward to this being officially launched later this year as part of our 50 years celebrations of official diplomatic relations. COVID-19 has underscored the critical importance and relevance of technology and digital platforms to business skills and business models.

Australia is pleased to partner with the United Nations Development Program, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare and the Rodrigues Regional Assembly to pursue Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality with the introduction of enhanced policy measures to tackle gender based violence and gender stereotypes, alongside broader achievement of the SDGs.

We commend the Mauritius government’s efforts to strengthen the legislative framework (Protection of Domestic Violence Act) making, among others, the Perpetrators Rehabilitation Program compulsory.

We welcome the Mauritian Government’s announcement of the setting up of a Gender Based Violence Observatory recognizing the importance of data and evidence in formulating effective policies  and ensuring robust legal frameworks to protect our communities – particularly our children and women, as evidenced by recent violent attacks including here in Mauritius.

Under Australia’s Direct Aid Program, we are pleased to support UNDP and the Mauritian Government implement these initiatives  which build on UNDP facilitated exchanges with the Parliamentary Gender Caucus and Australian authorities like the South Australian Department of Corrections and the Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency as we share experiences on how to shape effective responses to these complex and challenging issues. The collaboration will also support a gender equality education campaign recognizing that much work remains in Australia, Mauritius and other countries to break down barriers to women and girls empowerment and remove stereotypes. The program will also support the setting up of a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Committee at the level of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly.

Australia is pleased to support these initiatives and in so doing, demonstrate our commitment to one of the most important SDGs of all – SDG 17, Partnerships.

Australia will continue to be a partner and champion gender equality across our communities and in various sectors. We have seen this only last week – with our successful bid (with New Zealand) to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup. This is a landmark for women’s football in the region, and we are looking forward to creating an enduring legacy for women in sport.

As we come out of COVID-19, building back better means ensuring gender equality - that we empower women and girls to contribute to economic growth, health, education and sustained peace.

At a time when there are increasing risks of gender based violence as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and a risk to unravelling the gains already achieved in promoting gender equality, these initiatives we are officially launching today and this partnership with UNDP, the Mauritian Government and Rodrigues Regional Assembly are as important as ever.

Thank you to all our partners for their organization of today’s event and to their commitment to leave no-one behind and build back better.


1 July 2020