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Women in governance: empowering women in the Pacific

2 min read

The need to recognise, value and promote women in senior management and leadership roles within local government in the Pacific is as great as ever. In order for local government to strengthen policy debate and ensure local decision-making is representative of the communities it supports, it needs to ensure that both management and elected representatives reflect the gender balance and diversity found within their communities.

Women often demonstrate an approach that is different and complementary to that of men, and bring qualities to consultation, policy development and decision-making processes that can be of particular value. In addition, women who manage their own households often have high levels of organisational, financial and time management skills, which can be of particular benefit to both elected and appointed positions within local government.

Many women also have a close involvement with their community (often as a result of household and child-rearing responsibilities as well as volunteer activities), and thus often have a greater awareness of the social issues impacting on their communities and greater concern for their communities’ wellbeing and welfare.

There are benefits, also, for women who participate in local government. Elected positions within local government are generally more accessible than those at the national level, thus local government is a good training ground for women who aspire to a life in national politics. Management positions within local government often provide family-friendly conditions as well as lifestyle, and can serve as a ‘stepping stone’ for other high-level management positions in the corporate, community or public sector.

The International Women’s Development Agency

Through funding from the United Nations Democracy Fund, the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) has been working in partnership with Commonwealth Local Government Forum Pacific and the Strengthening Women’s Participation in Municipal Government Program since 2008.

Program Co-ordinator Megan Praeger commented that before the program, neither gender nor women’s involvement in local government were considered important. “This project has resulted in greater awareness of both issues and the mandate of local governments to deliver basic services which positively impact on the lives of women,” she said.

The Pacific has…

1. The poorest level (4.2 per cent) of women’s participation in national-level governance in the world.
2. High levels of stereotyping of women’s roles: local government managers are generally men, with women in secretarial, health and assistance roles.

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