By ELLA KAUHUE
Solomon Islands National Council of Women
WOMEN and men working together is important for development.
“A state that does not educate and train women is like a man who only trains his right arm.” Jostein Gaader, Sophie’s World.
“Development is not only about raising people’s incomes or reducing poverty, but, rather, it involves a process of expanding freedoms equally for all people.” Nobel prize winning economist, Amartya Sen.
This is an article I think suits the space and time we are at now in particular when the nation is preparing for the 2019 Elections.
Concerning women’s participation in national politics in Solomon Islands, it has not moved far.
Women have tried, but their call for engagement continues to fall on deaf ears.
This is result of an attitude that women are not good enough to be leaders.
Although, there are obstacles identified as barriers for women to participate effectively in Parliament such as not having finances to get there, those are lies.
Simply, what is concealed behind that is we women are not good enough.
Women of Solomon Islands not at any time have they been visibly discriminated against except when they indicate their interest to contest for national general election.
Critically, this is where women experience prejudice at its best.
However, because they are women they continued. Their desire is to serve the nation.
This is where the story begins.
There is need for wider participation of women in national politics or in any form of national leadership.
Despite women’s good intentions, it often generates very interesting discussions and comments amongst the general public including our leaders.
For a very long time, women in Solomon Islands have continuously remained on the edge when it comes to leadership especially leadership in the public arena.
Women are undermined by the people. They lack the capacity to lead especially leadership at the national level.
Solomon Islands need to learn from women when it comes to leadership.
Women leadership is founded on placing the needs of others first.
For instance, sharing food is something that women are good at.
Often they would forget about sharing food for themselves because there a lot of people or where, there are not enough food.
Melanesian men rarely do that because they will do it differently. Men will ensure that their plates are full first with the best food that are there.
This is not about food, but about attitude of respect where others are prioritised and considered above one’s needs.
In its simplest form, is this what is killing Solomon Islands today?
When women are demonstrating leadership in their own homes and communities, comments or discussions are rarely forthcoming because they are good at what they do.
Women in Leadership comes with a lot of judgment.
It is no longer about women and leadership, but about her character and personality, the type of person she is, whether she is educated or not, the number of husbands she has in the past and whether she has left her husband or not, the types of clothes and makeup she puts on and all the rest.
Regardless of the quality things that women who are intended to go into public leadership or political leadership acquire, she often measured against the areas that have stated above.
Women’s potential to lead is simply undermined because of who she is.
In Solomon Islands, women in leadership especially in politics have been invisible, meaning many people have turned a blind eye.
What is hidden from the eye is women in leadership is critical to any leadership that is contemplating change and transformation.
Changes and transformation in areas such as inclusive economic growth, national stability, national harmony and other components that are paramount for national prosperity.
Solomon Islands has been led by men since its independence in 1978 and there is very little impact or no impact at all on the lives of ordinary men and women, then the right question for us to be asking is can women taking leadership make a difference?
The kind of leadership that exists in this country for a long time is status oriented. It is the ‘Big Man” mentality of leadership.
The kind of leadership that this country need to have is about recognising the qualities of both men and women.
In terms of women and leadership, it is not so much about recognising what women can bring to the table in terms of issues affecting women and their families, but more about the difference they can make to the situation of women, girls and the other vulnerable groups in our society.
As result of women missing from engaging in political leadership, they are also missing from contributing to government policies that are affecting the lives of women and young girls directly.
Women are also missing from making important decisions that will affect the lives of thousands of women and girls at that level.
More engagement of women in leadership needs mind changing.
Understanding why women must engage in political and public leadership is the first step to accepting women in leadership.
Women in leadership is not all about women taking over, but it is about women partnering with their male counterpart in leadership so that the decisions that are made are reflected as being fair and just.
It is not about focusing on women, but building the right culture for women leaders to grow and for women to become role models for the younger women generation.
It is fundamental for this country to take women seriously when it comes to political or other forms of leadership.
The concept of women lacking quality leadership is preconceived, but this is exactly what is happening in many of our indigenous traditions.
The mentality that only men can climb up the balcony of leadership is very much alive and accepted as a norm.
As women continue striving for representation as leaders, former U.S. President Barack Obama recently shared a message heard around the world saying:
“More women need to be put in positions of power because men seem to be having some problems these days.”
The former President continues to say that “women seem to have a better capacity than men do, partly because of their socialization”.
The way forward for Solomon Islands now is to give more opportunity for women to lead.
Solomon Islands needs women who can make a positive difference to the lives of those she governs.
The kind of women we are talking about here are women who have strong principles and values, one that promotes respect for her male and female counterparts.
Women who represent her people truly and honestly, one that stands for the truth, one that does not let bad influences gets in her way and one that has a high interest in the national issues of her country and community.
There is need for greater realisation that if we are to take full advantage of the talent available in the community and if community perspectives are to be adequately represented, women need to participate along with men in leadership.
Leadership is an opportunity for both men and women to work together by supporting each other and recognising their potential.
Women in leadership is about partnership and sharing of responsibility in discussion and decision making in the country, so that we can move forward to be a much fairer and an economically sound nation.”