There is strong evidence showing that that empowering women and girls supports enhanced economic growth and development and is an important pillar of sustainable development. Empowerment is also a crucial step towards ending discrimination for women and girls, which is a persistent human rights issue. Over the last 20 years, progress has been made towards improving gender equality markers, however, significant work remains, and further efforts are needed to improve gender equality – this is true of Australia as it is our surrounding regions. As reported by the UNDP: women earn 77% the income of men; 1 in 3 (35%) women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence; and less than 1 in 4 (24%) national parliamentarians were women (as of November 2018).
Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Gender Equality
Sustainable Development Goal 5 is to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” with a set of 9 targets and 14 indicators to help measure progress towards the achievement of the goal. These targets are appropriately broad in their remit, ranging from ending all forms of discrimination and eliminating all forms of violence through to recognition of the value of unpaid care and domestic work, universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and women’s full and effective access and equal opportunities for leadership. In relation to leadership, women are under-represented in politics throughout the world. This is especially true in Melanesia where women are almost completely excluded from national level political institutions.
Research on Women’s Leadership and Political Participation in Solomon Islands, UNDP
In 2018, Sustineo designed and implemented a research project with UNDP to contribute to increasing women’s political representation in Solomon Islands. Solomon Islands currently has two female Members of Parliament out of 50, and in its post-independence history only four female parliamentarians have been elected in the National Parliament.
Sustineo designed and delivered a mixed-methods research project to better understand the factors that inhibit and enable women’s political representation in Solomon Islands. Overall, 89 in-depth interviews with 95 participants were conducted with former female and male candidates and politicians, women leaders and other politically connected individuals to understand the dynamics that influence whether candidates are successful or not in Solomon Islands. This was complemented by a survey of 1,061 community members to gain insight into the perspectives of voters in the selected constituencies related to perceptions of leadership, candidate qualities and characteristics, campaigning, political participation, and women’s leadership. Research findings were validated over a two-day workshop with women leaders in Solomon Islands which led to the development of a roadmap document in the lead up to the 2019 Solomon Islands National General Election (NGE).
The research outputs shed new insight into the factors that inhibit women’s political participation. These include:
- The prevalence of money politics as a structural inhibitor to increasing women’s political representation, along with more establish obstacles related to cultural barriers
- Perceptions of what constitutes good candidate characteristics for both women and men
- Insights into effective campaigning strategies and the importance of laying ground over time rather than during the campaign period.
- Broad insights into community perceptions of women’s ability to participate freely in elections and other voting practices.
Consultation with UNDP and partners led to the development of targeted recommendations on short term support for women candidates, as well as medium-long term strategies to build the profile and competitiveness of women seeking to enter politics in the future. This directly informed subsequent workshops and events supported by UNDP, informed a support program for women candidates in the lead up to the 2019 NGE, and has shaped the focus on support to women through the UNDP Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in Solomon Islands Project Phase II.
The Synthesis Report for the project is available here: https://solomon-islands.ec-undp-electoralassistance.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2018/11/ec-undp-jtf-solomon-islands-resources-research-on-womens-leadership-and-political-participation-in-selected-constituencies-of-solomon-islands.pdf
Interested to learn more about SDG 5 or women’s leadership in the Pacific?
There is a lot of information available if you want to learn more about SDG 5 and/or, more specifically, about women’s leadership in the Pacific.
At a Pacific regional level:
- An outline of DFAT’s programs to support gender equality are available here: https://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/pacific/development-assistance/Pages/gender-equality-pacific-regional
- Progress towards SDG 5 indicators in the Pacific is reported via the Pacific Data Hub: https://pacificdata.org/content/sdg-5-gender-equality
- For the above noted project in Solomon Islands, Dr Kerryn Baker from the Department of Pacific Affairs was the Technical Team Leader. Here is a recent interview where she outlines her broad research focus in the Pacific: http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/news-events/all-stories/pacific-has-lowest-rate-women-parliament-dr-kerryn-baker-trying-change
In relation to the Solomon Islands:
- For more information about the Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands - Phase II (https://www.pacific.undp.org/content/pacific/en/home/projects/secsip.html)
- Academics from the DPA have published recent pieces building from the 2019 National Election. This includes from Kerryn Baker on “Women’s Candidacy and the Power of Incumbency in the 2019 Solomon Islands Election” and Colin Wiltshire and colleagues on “Attitudes towards women’s political participation in Solomon Islands”.
Image from: https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal5