Understanding the patriarchal social system is crucial to addressing the need for more women as decision-makers at the community level.
Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) Executive Director, Nalini Singh, made the following remarks while speaking on women in power and decision-making as Pacific Island Country governments, women’s ministries, and Civil Society Organizations prepare for the 14th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and the 7th Meeting of the Pacific Ministers for Women held from 27- 29 April and 4 May respectively.
Women in power and decision-making is one of the 12 priority areas of concern in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (BPA) which is a resolution adopted by the United Nations at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women on 15 September 1995. The resolution adopted to promulgate a set of principles concerning the equality of men and women.
Singh believes that the 14th Triennial conference of Pacific women is an important platform where Pacific ministers can talk about challenges of women in the Pacific region and come up with collective outcome strategies that can help advance women in decision-making processes.
She said that men having autonomous decision-making processes has limited women's decision-making powers to patriarchal ideologies at the community level.
Singh added that “when women achieve a certain level of representation, they can achieve solidarity of purpose and represent other women’s interest.”
“Women’s experiences differ from men, and these experiences need to be represented in decision-making process and in implementation. The equal representation of women and men enhances democratization of governance in both transitional and consolidated democracies,” Singh stated.
Singh says despite the existing patriarchal social systems, governments and the community at large can do more to engage women in public decision-making roles.
“Conducting programs such as the FWRM’s Intergenerational Women’s Leadership Programme equips women and girls with tools for their own advocacy within the community they live and engage in.
“Information from evidence-based research is another tool which could hold elected representatives accountable on their commitment to gender concerns,” she added.
Singh further added that increasing visibility of women’s portrayal of leadership in media is also a good way of highlighting their role in power and decision-making.
“Producing campaign manuals could help women manage their resources to be able to run campaigns and find the support from their families and community.”
Prior to the BPA, in 1994, at the 6th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 1st Meeting of Pacific Ministers for Women, and in preparation for the Fourth World Conference for Women, held in Beijing, China in 1995, delegates from 22 Pacific Island countries and territories met in Noumea and endorsed a set of principles and a plan of action to advance gender equality in the region – The Pacific Platform for Action on the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality (PPA).
The PPA was a landmark achievement for the region, and a remarkable one as it emerged prior to the globally negotiated and endorsed BPA, and its 13 critical issues mirrored most of the critical areas of the BPA.
For Pacific Island Countries and Territories, BPA implementation from 1995 was twinned with actioning the PPA. The PPA has been central to accelerating implementation of the BPA in the region.
The 14th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women (27-29 April), will also see the launch of the Pacific Beijing +25 Report, which takes stock of progress, recommendations, and what must be done to achieve full and equal participation and inclusion of all women and girls of all diversities.