The women of Samoa are born leaders.
That’s the opinion of Cathy Allen, President of the consulting firm The Connections Group. Ms. Allen extolled the potential of Samoan women during the first day of a two-day workshop organized by the Samoa Ala Mai Advocacy Group for women candidates.
During an interview with the Samoa Observer, Ms. Allen said Samoa is about to make history. Out of all the countries in world, Pacific Island countries including Samoa have the lowest rate when it comes to women representation in Parliament.
Ms. Allen says this is “astonishing”.
“This is because you do so much for women and have so much respect for them,” she said.
“Most of your women are educated and have the same chance to go to school as the boys. They now also have the same opportunity to get jobs like boys in your society.”
Ms. Allen added that Samoa has done a lot to try and put a stop to violence against women and she thought that was very “brilliant”.
“But the question is, how come there is a small number of women being elected in Parliament? The women of Samoa are not shy; they are not the kind of women in which you push over. You don’t push these women over. It’s just surprising that there aren’t many women in Parliament.”
But she is confident that that is about to change on 4 March 2016.
“On that day, you will wake up to the highest number of women in Parliament,” she said.
She believes this will be the beginning of a lot of good things for women here in Samoa.
“We will see the growing number of women in jobs, more women in appointments and more women as Ministers. This is just the beginning.” The 10 per cent quota for women in Parliament is a good start, she said. “You have to start somewhere. Five is a good a place to start with.”
But she believes it’s the beginning of ‘change,’ something the people of Samoa want.
“What I hear all over Samoa is that people want change. I hear that they don’t like the status quo where people have been in the office for so long and they want some fresh faces, particularly the youth.
“The young people are saying, if there are women that are running, she is not the status quo, and I am going to vote for her.”
So what is she telling the women candidates?
“Do not run because you are a woman. Run because you bring something to the table. Something that has a special background in terms of dealing with your community and the issues they face.
“We have doctors, lawyers, community officers, business women and teachers running and I think our women candidates have enough skills to take their place on the table.”
Asked about what she believes make a good Parliamentarian, Ms. Allen said he/she is “someone who listens, someone who is fair and honest. Someone who will tell you the truth even if it’s not popular.
“Someone who includes people who are not at the table but who are affected by the policies discussed.
“Someone who actually helps people decide the problems and shows them how to solve the problems, and then stay on the track to solving those problems.
“A great leader is someone that becomes your inspiration for getting the real hard work done,” she added. “Someone who makes life fair, equal and prosperous for everyone.” As someone who spent some time writing for the New York Times, Ms. Allen believes that reporters make the best candidates. And that women candidates should have the attributes of a reporter.
“That’s because they [reporters] are fair and they ask the right questions,” she said.
Talking from experience, Ms. Allen believes reporters tend to ask the real questions that people want to know, as opposed to the type of questions that will result in profits.
“And women are just like them, and they should be like them and ask questions that will benefit all.” Looking at the list of candidates for the election, Ms. Allen said they are “astounding”.
“I’ve met 19 of them and coming from someone who has traveled around the world and met a lot of different people, I think that your women were born as leaders,” she said.
“There is that sense of self-assurance in them I do not see in most women I’ve met. In other countries, I would spend most of the time talking about confidence and self-confidence, but not in Samoa.
“Here I talk about how many votes you need to get in order for you to win. I talk about how often they need to visit the people of the constituency. I don’t have to talk about their personalities and how they present themselves.”
Samoan women are very strong and have leadership potential, she said.
“I don’t have to teach them so much about leadership. We just have to focus much on campaigns dynamics.”
Ms. Allen added that the candidates must be brave.
“They need to speak freely and briefly,” she said. “They need not to go into long programmes and they need to be able to say their opinion in short and simple sentences. They need to be straight-forward. They need to make sure that our lands remain our own and that everyone who is entitled to the land keeps the land.”
Moreover, she added that women candidate should broaden opportunities for our children to have a better future in Samoa to avoid having to migrate overseas.
“We want leaders who will make a difference and keep Samoa a safer place and safer home for our children.”
Ms. Allen’s work focuses on helping communities, governments, non-profit organizations and women’s groups to better communicate to the press, the public and politicians.