Women in government

The objective:     Increase in women’s participation in administrative and representative Government.

With currently no woman representative at the national government level in Solomon Islands, and women representing less than 30 per cent of government employees, improving women’s participation in Solomon Islands Government remains a key priority for RAMSI’s assistance to Solomon Islands.

RAMSI’s work focuses on the removal of many of the barriers that currently hold back women’s participation and representation in government, including through advocating genuine change to policies, legislation and employment terms, and strengthening organisations that can foster women’s leadership development.

The strategy

RAMSI will provide assistance to the Solomon Islands Government to:

  1. Increase the percentage of women at all levels within the public service.
  2. Reduce the barriers to women’s election.
  3. Improve capacity in organisations that have the potential to foster women’s aspirations to public office.
To learn more about some of the specific targets that have been set for each strategy, download the Partnership Framework document.

The challenge

There are currently no female representatives in Solomon Islands national parliament, and only five women representatives at the provincial government level. Furthermore, within the Solomon Islands public service, women represent little more than 30 per cent of the total workforce. 60 per cent of these women are in junior-level roles. with just five of the country’s 25 Permanent Secretary positions and three of twenty Undersecretary positions being held by women.

This low representation is compounded by traditional gender roles in Solomon Islands, to which women are often confined to domestic support roles. A lack of men and women willing to publicly champion the cause of advancing women’s position in Government further increases the size of the challenge.

However, the willingness to improve representation is strong. Results from the People’s Survey 2011 show that more than 85% of Solomon Islanders believe there should women in parliament. Of the 89% who said there should be women in parliament, 91% also supported the concept of special reserved seats for women in parliament.

RAMSI's work

RAMSI works alongside a range of organisations including the Solomon Islands Ministry of Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs and the National Council of Women, with the focus on breaking down the barriers that prevent women’s advancement to leadership positions. Their work covers the following key areas:

1.    The public service

  By helping to improve the conditions and opportunities for women within the Solomon Islands public service, RAMSI’s assistance aims to create long-term women leaders within the Solomon Islands government. The key targets for this work include:

  • Completion of an analysis of gender conditions in the Public Service, including pay structures, anti-discrimination processes and family-friendly arrangements.
  • Identification of specific training needs that support women.
  • Conduct of a review into employment processes and conditions to reduce the barriers to women’s employment and promotion.
  • The establishment of women’s mentoring networks within the public service.

2.    Elections and Parliament

By supporting improved electoral and parliamentary processes within Solomon Islands, RAMSI helps to reduce the obstacles to women’s participation in elected government. Some of the key targets for this work include:

  • Improvement of the conduct and integrity of elections, by supporting the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission to reduce male domination of the electoral process. This work will encourage the employment of more women as electoral officials and raise awareness of the importance for women to register to vote and to vote accurately on election day.

  • Increasing the number of women in the national parliament office, which will provide valuable experience in the workings of Parliament to young female graduates.
  • Supporting the National Parliament Office to develop a gender policy, to provide training for Members of Parliament on gender issues, and to support mechanisms for increasing the representation of women in parliament.

3.    Strengthening organisations

 RAMSI is assisting the Solomon Islands Government to improve the capacity within organisations that can help to foster women’s aspirations to public office. The key targets for achieving this work include:

  • Strengthening key organisations including the Ministry of Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs and the National Council of Women.

  • Increasing the space for leadership development through support for emerging women’s groups and for leadership development  for women with potential to reach public office

  • Development of skills and networks through which women with existing capacity can mentor emerging leaders.

Case study:

Being The First’: Storis Blong Oloketa Mere lo Solomon Aelan  

The new book, Being The First’: Storis Blong Oloketa Mere lo Solomon Aelan tells the stories of 14 Solomon Islands women who have broken through barriers, charting their journeys to positions of leadership in their country.

Funded by RAMSI and co-edited by Dr Alice Pollard and Dr Marilyn Waring of RAMSI’s Machinery of Government program, the book includes the stories of current and former Solomon Islands Permanent and Under Secretaries, the Clerk of Parliament, Taeasi Sanga, and the first and only Solomon Island female parliamentarian since Independence, Hilda Kari.

Permanent Secretary to the Solomon Islands Ministry of Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs, Ethel Sigimanu, who is one of the 14 women profiled in the book, said Being The First represented an important step in the push to improve women’s representation in the Solomon Islands public service.

“This book has taken us another step towards the advancement of women into decision-making positions,” said Mrs Sigimanu.

“These are ordinary women who were not born with silver spoons in their mouths. They, too, have had to struggle with the challenges of life – like being able to afford to get their children to school,” she said.

“It is about people looking at where they are now, and seeing that women can indeed rise up – and can do great things for this country.

Achievements so far

Since it commenced in 2007, RAMSI’s work to increase women’s participation in government has produced a number of key achievements. Some of these include:

  • Publication of the first ever book on Solomon Island women, Being The First: Storis Blong Oloketa Mere lo Solomon Aelan, which documents the lives and experiences of senior Solomon Islands female public servants, providing guidance and strong examples for young women. Parts of the book have been included in the Solomon Islands school curriculum, and have been supported by a newspaper, radio and TV series profiling a number the women featured in the book.
  • Establishment of a Women’s Leadership Mentoring program, ‘Spes fo Umi Gro Lo Lidasip’, which involves over 100 women participating from government, community, church and business sectors developing skills and confidence to take on leadership roles.
  • The launch of a women’s CV database to promote women’s nominations to Government Boards and Commissions. This CV database, which contains over 100 profiles of women from throughout Solomon Islands, played a key role in the appointment of a number of women to Board positions shortly after it was launched, including one to the Solomon Islands Economic Advisory Board. Training has also been provided to more than 50 women as existing or potential members of Boards and Commissions.
  • Strategic planning and leadership workshops for 170 women in emerging provincial women’s organisations, with two workshops co-funded by Members of Parliament.
  • Support for the endorsement of the Solomon Islands Government’s National Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Development in December 2009.
  • The establishment of the Women in Shared Decision-Making working group, which assists women to campaign and stand for national and provincial elections; to prepare submissions to Parliament Committees and to advocate for reserved seats for women in parliament
  • Leadership training with emerging women’s groups including the Women in Development division of the Ministry of Women, Youth & Children’s Affairs, ‘Voice Blo Mere’, Solomon Islands Mother’s Union, Solomon Islands Christian Association’s Youth Desk, the Young Women’s Christian Association, and Aoke Langalanga and North Vella Women’s Associations.
  • Training for women currently working in the Solomon Islands public service women, in areas such as report writing, IT, negotiation skills, strategic planning, report writing and public speaking.