FROM 2 December to 6 December 2013 Vois Blong Mere Solomons, Women in Shared Decision Making Coalition (WISDM), and UN WOMEN Solomon Islands hosted the Transformational Leadership and Empowerment Workshop.
The workshop has been noted as a very significant event, especially for those running in the upcoming election, to consider the way we look at and understand leadership.
The week long workshop was primarily designed for women and men, from all provinces, who have demonstrated leadership ability and have expressed their interest to contest in the 2014 national general elections.
Also participating and observing were women and men from leadership roles in Non-Governmental Organisations and Community
Policy adviser to the Opposition and male intending candidate for the 2014 election, Dr Judson Leafasia, attended the workshop and explained that “Parliament is a very special form of leadership, and just like any decision making, it is not just for men, it is for all of us. … We need to get the voters to understand that getting more women in parliament will give hope to the situation of our country”.
Women in Solomon Islands are severely under-represented in many political and government institutions. Currently there is one woman in parliament with only a few women as permanent secretaries and provincial members.
As a result of previous work by UN Women and other international organisations it has become clear that it is critical that while lobbying to increase the numbers of women elected and for more accountable democratic systems, it is also essential that women and men in power are aware of how gender inequalities affect development and are prepared to work to uphold gender equality and human rights.
The organisations behind the workshop aim to promote women’s equal participation in politics and decision-making, as well as strengthen the competence, effectiveness and commitment of women and men leaders, through the advancement of transformational leadership.
Transformational leadership is grounded in the principles and values of equality, democracy, justice, caring, non-violence and cooperation.
It is fully aligned with the human rights agenda.
A transformational leadership approach highlights the importance for people and organisations promoting social change to demonstrate principles of equality within their lives and institutions in order to strengthen efficacy.
The workshop facilitators said “the week long training is the first of its kind, and truly transformative. The training challenged individuals’ approach and attitude to leadership”.
Current provincial member for Isabel province and an intending candidate for 2014, Rhoda Sikilabu, explained that “I find this training particularly useful in terms of the types of leadership we have been discussing. … I’ve begun to see what is transformational leadership, and what is something else.
“It is good to know what I am doing and what I have done in the past, in order to venture out into the future… to be able to pick from all the qualities I have to make something a little bit broader, because I need that to be in higher level politics.”
Observers and participants from civil society who are not potential candidates in 2014 also found the training useful in terms of their work.
Alice Houanihau from Women’s Federation for Peace explained that “Leadership is not only at the political level, it can be in any organisation, or in any women’s group … if we can have the same equalities as a transformational leader then we can really work well within our organisations.
“There is confusion and corruption at any leadership level, at the church level, the NGO level, the community level.
“I feel this is the kind of training that all women leaders should undertake”.
The week long workshop also provided an opportunity to build more understanding on the electoral systems, on campaign and election strategies, on effective political and social communications and to strengthen alliances and networks as a base support for women candidates.
The workshop was funded under UN Women’s Advancing Gender Justice Programme (AGJP).
“This programme is based on the understanding that promoting women’s political participation is both a development issue and a moral obligation.
“Women’s participation in decision-making positions has a clear impact on furthering key human rights issues, including for women and children.
“The Transformational Leadership and Empowerment Workshop will also be held in Vanuatu and Samoa.”