Women leadership critical during pandemic, diplomat says

Leadership by Samoan women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic has never been more important to ensure their voices are heard, says Australia’s High Commissioner to Samoa, Sara Moriarty.

Speaking on Monday at the conclusion of six-days training for women candidates contesting the 2021 General Election, the Australian diplomat said women are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic and it is important now more than ever for their voices to be heard.

“As a community we understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate effect on women and girls around the world,” she said. “Leadership from women and girls in this environment has never been more important, to ensure our voices are being heard. 

“I am confident that your representation and leadership will inspire positive change and empower many young girls to also journey down the path of representing all Samoans – women and men – in Parliament.”

According to the Australian High Commissioner, politics is not for the faint hearted. 

“It’s a tough job and it’s not for the faint of heart. I think any female Australian politician would tell you that if they were here tonight.  

“I hope that this course has provided you some important resource tools for your preparations leading up to the 2021 elections.”

The six-day training on campaign strategy was done under the auspices of the Women in Leadership [W.I.L.S.] Project, which is a three-year project jointly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme [U.N.D.P.] and U.N. Women. The Government of Australia funds the program in partnership with the Government of Samoa.

Ms. Moriarty said Australia is proud to support the implementation of the W.I.L.S. Program through the United Nations.

“The participation of the candidates in this training course is a testament to how much interest there is from female leaders, and how far women have come in taking up leadership roles in the community. My congratulations to our candidates for completing this milestone.”

As to questions on why such support is only provided to aspiring women politicians, Ms Moriarty said the training is to encourage women to participate in the political arena. 

There are over 20 women contesting the polls next April.

Addressing the women candidates, the diplomat praised them for their courage and commitment to run for public office. 

“I would like to commend your courage and commitment to embarking on this journey with the support provided through W.I.L.S.,” she said.

“It's about equity – through providing learning opportunities to empower more women to lead their communities – and speak for those who may not have a voice.”

Ms. Moriarty added that it was also critical to integrate Samoan culture into the training.

“Integrating the Samoan culture into the support and training courses under the program is a critical thread running through this program and I have been struck by how many times the issue of language as a barrier to women’s political participation has been raised with me over the past few days,” said Ms. Moriarty.

“It was great to hear how much you have learned from this learning opportunity, and heartening to see how these tools and advice can help open the door slightly to enable more women to represent their communities.”

She thanked the Government of Samoa, the United Nations Development Programme, U.N. Women and the W.I.L.S. for coordinating the training.

“Congratulations to you all for your commitment towards promoting women’s political participation in next year’s elections. I wish you all the best on your journey ahead,” Ms. Moriarty said.

Seven women who completed the training also received certificates at the Elisa Hotel Conference Room on Monday evening.

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