A new leadership project is being launched in Samoa today with the aim to build on advances in gender equality.
The Women in Leadership in Samoa (W.I.L.S.) Project seeks to improve gender equality and women’s leadership in Samoa.
W.I.L.S. represents the second phase of the Increasing Political Participation of Women in Samoa (I.P.P.W.S.) Project, which was in place from 2014 to 2016.
Samoa has made significant advances in development and in promoting gender equality. Women now hold five of the 50 seats in the national parliament – equating to the 10 per cent required as a result of the 2013 constitutional amendment.
Furthermore, in the 2016 general election a record of 24 women stood for election, which was a 300% increase from the previous election.
Building on the lessons learnt from the I.P.P.W.S. Project, W.I.L.S. aims to strengthen opportunities for more inclusive and effective participation of women in all forms of leadership and share knowledge of Samoa’s experience in promoting women’s political participation.
The W.I.L.S. project is a joint initiative between U.N. Women and U.N.D.P., in partnership with the Government of Samoa and the Australian Government and with support from local partner organisations.
“Equal societies grow faster and are more cohesive, fostering peace and opportunities for all,” said Dr. Simona Marinescu, U.N. Resident Coordinator.
“The United Nations in Samoa and across the Pacific region will continue to invest in rights-based, inclusive development. With the great support of the Australian Government, U.N.D.P. and U.N. Women will join efforts with the Government of Samoa to provide a conducive environment for women to unleash their potential to lead and contribute to the country’s advancement.”
Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr. Sharman Stone will give the keynote address at the launch.
“The Australian Government is committed to promoting the empowerment of women and girls, particularly in the Pacific region,” she said.
“Gender equality is central to economic, political and human development and Australia will continue to work closely with its partners in Samoa and the Pacific region to advance the rights of women and girls through projects such as W.I.L.S.”
The W.I.L.S. project will partner closely with the Government of Samoa to support culturally sensitive implementation that includes women at all levels, from community based organizations to high level female representation in public and private sectors.
Despite advances, there remain enduring systemic and practical barriers that prevent women from engaging in political leadership. Barriers include limited pathways into political leadership; perceptions about women’s roles; financial constraints; gaps in civic education and awareness; and the need for broader support for inclusivity.
W.I.L.S. aims to address these challenges and support increased representation of women in all levels of leadership.
A key lesson from the project’s first phase was that increasing female representation in leadership roles requires sustained and long-term investment and support.
U.N. Women Fiji Multi-Country Office (M.C.O.) Acting Representative, Nicolas Burniat, said W.I.L.S. represents an important step towards addressing barriers to women’s representation, that builds on the government’s ongoing commitment to women’s increased leadership participation at all levels.
“By continuing to build on the established partnerships and networks with community groups, civil society organisations, media and other organisations, we can help ensure women have the tools and opportunities needed to take on leadership roles in their communities and at the national level,” said Mr. Burniat.