Archive for June, 2010
Thursday, June 24th, 2010
Setaita was formally the city solicitor at Suva City Council. She is committed to improving the quality of life of her community and often offers free legal advice for community projects.
“Women should not stay in the background anymore. Instead they should come forward and participate in civic affairs.”
I have an LLB and a postgraduate Diploma in Legal Studies both from the University of the South Pacific. I am also a certified Mediator for Dispute Assessment and Resolution. After graduating in 1999, I began working with a law firm, Q.B Bale &Associates. After, I worked with a number of other law firms including Tevita Fa, Lateef & Lateef and Law Solutions.
Joining Local Government
My decision to join local government was an individual one. I saw the opportunity as a challenge in comparison to my previous work; primarily because it involved the community.
I feel my work is demanding and I often have to take work home to meet deadlines. Fortunately, I have support at home so I can generally balance my work and family life quite well. However, I do feel I am not adequately remunerated as there is still an element of double burden for women.
Rates collection has been a challenging issue that involves many defaulting ratepayer cases. I work closely with the finance team in ensuring ratepayers are paying their rates on time as this affects the councils cash flow.
A current challenge as a result of my position in the management team, is working with the interim regime. Even though there are rules and laws in place, some decisions are made unilaterally.
I enjoy my work at Suva City at Suva City Council because I know I can provide sound legal advice on council issues and positively influence decisions.
I have provided free advice to a Fijian programme on criminal law and enjoyed doing it, so I plan to continue to put my legal expertise back into the community by offering legal advice on projects that the community wishes to pursue.
Words of Advice
Women should not stay in the background anymore. Instead they should come forward and participate in civic affairs. I believe women must be selected on merit as this will help with sound policy decision making.
I also believe women do a better job in local government because they are more committed, and are better listeners.
Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
“The fundamentals of being a good leader are love, tolerance and respect. I try to put all these values together to achieve the best results possible.”
I am a long serving member of the hospital board in Nadi with a special interest in working on women’s issues. I was also greatly involved in the community through St Vincent de Paul and was the first women’s chair of the Catholic Parish Council of St. Mary’s Church as well as a member of the education board. I have also worked for many years in the hotel industry.
The Big Decision
I fell into my role in local government by accident. I was recognised in the community for the work I had done and there was overwhelming support for my candidacy. When elected, I was confident that I could represent ratepayers well.
My family and extended family supported me during the election campaign. My campaign managers were my sons and their wives. I also received generous support from friends and family that live overseas. I was supported by the ratepayers in my ward and others around Nadi including church members. I also received training from UNIFEM (Women in Politics Project) before the election.
Working with men was a challenge. The men’s perspective differed a lot and they supported each other on issues. Policy issues did not have a gender balance because the men were uneducated on the need for considering gender differences.
An additional challenge was working through difficult race issues. I achieved success by trying to understand why certain people behave in certain ways – I mentally changed places. I always treated others as I would like to be treated
During my term I successfully worked with people with limited focus and took into account their varying interests. I achieved this by standing my ground and working on issues in the interest of all ratepayers and not any individual or political party.
After being elected mayor of Nadi town (1997-98) I was able to positively impact on development, for example infrastructure, beautification, schools, sports, music and arts. Before becoming mayor, I was deputy mayor for three years and also chaired the parks and gardens committee of council.
Words of Advice
Every woman wanting to join local government should know what they are getting into before starting. You also have to build a strong character because participation requires one to be strong in mind and body. ‘To get respect, one has to give respect’. You also have to develop greater tolerance.
It is also important to prioritise your family and seek their support before venturing into public life because after public life is over, only your family remains.
- Josephine is ‘semi-retired’. She is still actively involved with her church and provides advice to youth and women in her church community.
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Local governments in Fiji are not well known for their efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of their services. Aside from more apparent reasons of poor capacity and finance, the situation raises two important questions: Who is benefiting from the council services? Are services being designed by those who access them?
Preliminary research undertaken by the Strengthening Women’s Participation in Municipal Governance (SWPMG) Project in Fiji suggests that women are significantly under-represented in local decision making processes (as leaders, managers and citizens) which means that services have been and are currently largely designed and managed by men, and are likely to reflect their priorities and perspectives. Recent changes to local government structures have further reduced women’s voice and government accountability to women. It is an important time to be considering what can be done to support the development of local government structures and service delivery approaches that meet the different needs of both women and men.
Inadequate street lights, poorly maintained public toilets, roads and footpaths, increasing informal settlements, localised crime, lack of ecomonic opportunities, and access to finance: these and many more issues are the concerns of women and men in urban communities in Fiji as well as challenges confronting local governments in the Pacific.
Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
In Fiji and the broader Pacific region, governments, regional organisations and development agencies alike maintain a history of collecting data at the national rather than local level. Not surprisingly, this trend has spilled over to the collection of data on women’s representation and participation. As we witness the commitment to gender equality rise on regional and national agendas, the apparent apathy towards understanding the role and contribution of women in and to local level governments and therefore to basic service delivery raises the question: Where are the women at this level? Should we be taking more notice?
Preliminary research undertaken by the Strengthening Women’s Participation in Municipal Governance (SWPMG) Project in Fiji suggests that women are significantly under-represented in local government leadership and senior management positions. Why is this so and what can be done about it? The SWPMG Project partners Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Pacific Project and International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) kickoff the discussion in the paper titled – Where are The Women in Local Government in Fiji?
Women’s representation and participation in Pacific government’s at all levels is an essential step to progressing gender equality and genuine demcracy in the Pacific. As signatories to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), all but three Pacific island countries have committed to eliminating discrimination against women in national political and public life. Despite these committments, women’s representation in Pacific parliaments is currently the lowest in the world at 4.2%. Global trends indicate that whilst women are still underrepresented at all levels of government, women’s political representation at the local level is gradually increasing and in most cases is higher that at the national level.
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