The Women in Leadership in Samoa (W.I.L.S.) project was officially launched and signed into effect at the Taumeasina Island Resort yesterday.
The W.I.L.S. project seeks to build on the advances made by the Increasing Political Participation of Women in Samoa (I.P.P.W.S.) project which saw the Samoan Government introduce special measures legislation in 2016 to ensure a minimum of 10 percent representation by women in parliament.
Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr. Sharman Stone gave the keynote address at the launch with Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, giving the government’s remarks.
“Women’s representation in politics remains a challenge other than the social, cultural and institutional barriers that hinder women’s political representation and there are many,” Fiame said.
“Women very often do not feel confident to put their hand up. The number of women entering politics is of course contingent on those who stand as candidates in elections. The success ratios of men and women who have run in the last few elections stand at 1:7 for men and 1:5 for women. That tells us that women never get a chance of getting in so the more women who run the higher the number of those who will succeed."
“The broadening of the focus of this project then to include women in many sectors will not only impact the different sectors but it may well take those women leaders to a point where they will feel confident to put their hand up for national political office. The government welcomes the other key outputs of this project, mainly engagement of members of parliament in a sustainable development agenda.”
The Deputy Prime minister also emphasised that it was important to have our male champions on the agenda and development mixes in order to move forward. She added enhanced women and youth leadership will enrich our development endeavors and raise the quality of our responses to the challenges we face.
U.N. Women Samoa Country co-ordinator, Papali’i Mele Mauala talked about their approach of extending their project to affect a broader base of women in Samoa.
“We have broadened it to leadership that’s not just about political engagement, it’s about making sure that women in their communities, women who want to lead in health care, private industry – we are making sure that we are making those avenues available to them,” said Papali’i.
“We’re also encouraging women to step forward and to own the fact that they’re contributing to their communities and to their families and to whatever industry or sector that they are involved in so there’s a much broader perspective involved of the approach."
“It also means that we will be reaching out to a variety of types of women so these are women showing different ways in their communities or their particular sectors. The real goal is to see just to see women increase in leadership in a variety of ways. The numbers of A.C.E.O.’s are 60 percent women, but when we go to C.E.O.'s that number drops, so what we are seeing is that when it comes to lower level decision making, there are a lot of women in those roles because they have the abilities and skills set to do that."
“When we get to higher leadership, that’s when men start to take over the numbers because of perceptions of who should be in leadership and also the anxiety of women not wanting to be seen to be going over the heads of their male counterparts. It’s not just about culture what we see all around us. There’s a reason why we get excited when we see a female Prime Minister because it’s not that common or event.”
The Women in Leadership in Samoa project is a joint initiative between the U.N. Women and U.N.D.P. in partnership with the Government of Samoa and the Australian Government with the support from local partners. The project is fully funded by the Australian Government.