Women leadership and climate change were the focus for a luncheon hosted by the Bank South Pacific at the Taumeasina Island Resort yesterday.
B.S.P. Chairman, Sir Costas Constantinou and Group Manager, Robin Fleming, are in Samoa for a visit and took the opportunity to invite a selected group of women leaders in both business and government to thank them for their patronage and support over the two and half years that B.S.P. have been operating in Samoa.
Guest speaker, Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, took the opening to address the group of prominent business women about recognising their power to influence the decision making at a policy level for Samoa.
Fiame pointed out that while women were underrepresented in parliament, they were flourishing in the private sector.
“The sad thing about the Pacific is we have the lowest rates of representation in our respective parliaments,” she said. “In P.N.G, they went backwards in their last elections because out of 111 members, not one woman got in.
“Thank God for the private sector for the higher representation of women in business because that’s where it might need for it to happen as a region.
“But women leadership is just so critical. In the very earliest writings about women’s participation in decision making, it was said that the number of women in Parliaments indicated the level of development in a country.”
Fiame challenged the women to make a choice between mediocrity and making a big difference.
“For us in the Pacific, I think we have to be honest and say to ourselves, perhaps that is the level of our Government. So then the question arises: Are we happy about that? Can we do something about it? I’ve been a Member of Parliament for 32 years and we’ve never had more than five women at any one time. But I still feel so challenged after 32 years about how it is going to happen.
“I have this really crazy cousin and she always has this special saying when you’re saying to her ‘Oh gosh I’m a bit unsure about whether I should do that with this issue that I’ve been thinking about and she always says ‘Fiame, all you have to do is put on your big girl panties and deal with it’.
“ I want to say to you ladies that it’s about putting on your big girl panties because you can either choose to be very small and do your own thing or you can actually choose to make a difference.
“It’s not only making a difference, but it’s also about your influence because just taking in this group, your scope of influence is tremendous. And I find that women don’t really appreciate it.
“If the development of our country is going to be dependent on the number of women in Parliament, it’s going to take a very long time. So we have to work together about that, let’s get more women into Parliament, get more women influences into our communities and our societies to make the change.”
The youngest female in the room and perhaps the youngest Pacific Climate Warrior in Samoa, 11-year-old Aniva Clarke took to the podium to deliver her remarks about the threat of climate change from a youth point of view.
“I think that all these effects of climate change will affect my future and the future of other children because it affects where we live, where we want to be and why we love living here in Samoa,” Aniva said.
“It will affect my future and the future of other children because it will mean fewer jobs and fewer opportunities. I believe my home is special and unique and it is worth protecting. And because of this, I believe it is important for children to be involved in climate change so they can understand what it means and how it will affect the environment and their lives.”
Following the formalities an opportunity was given for women leaders in the private sector and government to network.