Change takes time. So let’s continue to persevere

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 09 March 2017, 12:00AM

The truth is simple enough. Despite the strong push for gender equality, its undeniable that women are still marginalised. 

This is as true in the case of Samoa as it is in most countries – including the developed world. Which is why commemorations such as International Women’s Day, marked on the 8th of March every year, yesterday in Samoa, is an important occasion.

It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past, measure the progress made – if any – and plan concrete steps towards gender balance in the future. 

There is no hiding the fact that every day is international man’s day. The statistics show that men earn more money, they hold more top jobs, they get the higher positions in government, businesses and the community. 

On the other hand, men suffer much, much less violence from women than women do from men. Men get to make more decisions, hold more power, and dominate more lives. The list is endless.

Now we live in an unfair world. We get that. 

The unequal treatment of women, despite their merits, is perhaps one of the unfair aspects of life. Why? There are many answers. The complexity is that we are dealing with attitudes and mindsets that have become ingrained so that they have become solid strongholds.

It’s not easy to change these. 

The good news is that steps are being taken on many levels to make the changes. The bad news is that progress is not happening fast enough. And in some cases, it does feel like the more we push, the worse off things become.

But that’s okay. 

From our standpoint, although the desired changes are not happening fast enough, we see it coming. Slowly but surely. In Samoa for instance, women are slowly but surely rising up to take their place in key leadership positions in all sectors of society.

The growing number of women taking up key positions within government and the private sector is nothing short of impressive.

A few years ago, one could confidently name the women who were chief executive officers of government ministries and corporations in this country.

Not any more. Today, one is afraid of doing that simply due to the fear of leaving one out. The next level down in terms of Assistant C.E.O.s, an increasing number of women are also filling those roles. Eventually, they will graduate to occupy the most senior seats in those departments or ministries, which is a wonderful thought.

Outside government circles, take a look at some of the biggest private companies in Samoa. Many of them are being run by women who are doing a mighty fine job at it.

And that’s not all. Girls are totally dominating the sphere of academic achievements in schools and learning institutions. 

So sure, it’s undeniable that men still dominate leadership and other key roles, both in government and the private sector. 

There is also no denying the fact we’ve still got a lot of work to do to advance the cause of gender equality in Samoa – and all over the world for that matter. 

But considering where we used to be and where we are today, we say we have come a long way in terms of transforming our ideals about gender equality. And we are still progressing, one step at a time.

We have to try and be positive as a community, persevere and visiualise the idea we will get there. It would take time – and many bumps and bruises – but with determination, a willingness to adjust and adapt, nothing is impossible. Absolutely nothing is impossible.

And we’ve said this before, the change has got be driven by women.

Some of them are set in their ways, they are satisfied with their lot and therefore show no interest in anything else – of progress if you like. 

What if there is a better future for you? What would you say if I tell you that you were destined to become the C.E.O but because you have settled for second best, you will only ever be a Senior Officer? Why settle for mediocre when life could be better?

At this newspaper, we assure you of our support to achieve gender equality. Over the past many years, we have strongly promoted the view that there should be more women in decision-making at the village, national and international levels. We have also strongly advocated for more women in Parliament. And today we strongly advocate for equal treatment of women anywhere – including workplaces.

We believe women are the lifeblood of this country.  At the family, village, church and national level, they hold the key to maintaining peace and stability. 

In many cases, they are the sole breadwinners, mothers who keep families together and the women who groom boys to become leaders of the future. What can men ever do without women?

In Samoa today, the growth of women holding key leadership positions in government and the private sector is exponential. 

It’s true that in this country today, it is still very much a male dominated society. But women have and are continuing to earn their way to the top. You look at all these women in key leadership positions; they are not there because they are women.

They are there because they are the best people we have. They are qualified, they are leaders and they have earned the trust and respect of this country.

Change takes time. When it comes to changing mindsets about women and their role, we just need to persevere.

It’s a change that’s going to have to come from our people at our own pace when they wake up to realise gender equality is indeed a right and one that can only improve the prospects of this community.

On that note, we want to wish all the women of Samoa a wonderful International Women’s day, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 09 March 2017, 12:00AM

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