We want to see a world that is more just, equitable and cohesive. A key factor in this dream is that everyone, no matter their race, preference or gender, has the opportunity to step up, learn and reach their full potential.
Globally, women face unique challenges that can limit their potential and present barriers to succeed. A key issue across the world, is the lack of women sitting at the table. Globally, there are not enough women in positions of power, whether that be in corporate boardrooms, or senior positions and extending all the way to parliament.
Equal representation of women in decision-making has been shown to improve corporate performance. Gender equity not only ensures equality of opportunity but also better community outcomes. A lack of women in corporate leadership positions does not only hold back women, but the lack of women in power limits communities.
Empowering women to lead
The year was 2006 and the Solomon Islands saw another election which failed to see a women secure a seat in the National Parliament. At this time, only one female MP had been elected since independence in 1978.
In response, AUSAID conducted a Diagnostic Study into Women in Government in the Solomon Islands, which aimed to identify barriers to women’s participation in all levels of government and explore culturally appropriate strategies to address these constraints.
The diagnostic study identified three key goals; increase the percentage of women at all levels within the Public Service, reduce barriers to women’s election and improve the capacity of organisations that have the potential to foster women’s aspirations to public office.
Following this study, Creating Communities was brought in as part of the taskforce and we developed and delivered the Women’s Leadership Mentoring Program, which ran for three years. The goal was to develop a system and structure in which women with experience and capacity could mentor existing leaders.
Social innovation lead Lynden Prince, working alongside Michael Prince, delivered the program.
“We helped a significant group of women realise their own power for change and to not wait for others to simply hand them opportunities,” Prince said.
“The opportunities were already there for them to seize.”
Prince said empowering women was something she had always been passionate about.
“The Solomon Islands presented an opportunity to work with amazing women from a range of backgrounds who were hungry to learn, hungry for social change and the chance to participate in leading their communities and country.”
It was also an opportunity to apply Creating Communities models and principles in a new setting.
“If you observe and are willing to learn in a new culture, you can adapt and apply sound community development principles in way that fully suit that culture,” Prince said.
“Then you can partner with local people in bringing about the change they wish to see.”
The WLMP engaged with a diverse range of women’s groups across the public sector, church and community groups and by the end of the three years, there was substantial evidence that suggested the WLMP made significant progress toward achieving both its own specific objectives and the making a significant contribution to the higher level goals of the Women in Government strategy.
The program saw increases in women’s collective leadership and capacity on the Solomon Islands, with a public sector women’s leadership mentoring network established, mentoring in schools implemented and a general shift in relationships and collective leadership strategy amongst women’s groups.
Individually, the program saw graduates promoted to higher level positions in the public service, one woman was elected as a member of her local ward council, two women were appointed to strategic task forces that defined leadership competencies in the public service and another graduate from the Office of the Auditor General was promoted to a technical management role, supervising a team of both men and women.
“I am young in the presence of older and higher status women so yesterday I stayed in my nutshell. After yesterday I feel the confidence to come out of my shell and I have things to offer and to say.”
“As a teacher I realised I know things about learning but I have been leaving out some steps and have forgotten to reflect and to teach how to reflect. I have just gone straight to conclusions. This will change how I teach.”
“We need to get this learning to the younger ones in schools: families don’t offer what they use to. We need to show the young ones there is different way they can be, they can be the change and hope for the Solomon Islands.”