Women in Local Government Network
Friday, April 27th, 2012
Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
Nirmala has worked in local government since 1979 and is currently the Senior Operations Assistant at Sigatoka Town Council. She wishes to become further involved with her community and do social work.
“If a woman knows her job, nothing should stop her from progressing. I would encourage young women to acquire a high level of education and then contest elections so that a balanced gender perspective is incorporated in policymaking.”
After completing high school, I received on the job training. However, most of my professional skills were self taught.
Joining Local Government
I responded to an advertisement in the newspaper for a receptionist/typist position. In those days, getting a job and keeping it was important because Sigatoka town was a small town with not many job opportunities. I considered myself very fourtunate to have a job so I continued working for the council and progressed to become a Senior Operations Assistant.
I feel I have a healthy balance between my work and family.
In 1979, when I joined the council, I was the only woman. It was a big challenge to work amongst so many men. As the only female, I was reluctant to attend meetings because I felt out of place. I also feel that a more participatory approach – and not a top down management style – would be adopted if there were more women in council. Now there are six other women and I feel more comfortable. However, having only men around should not be a deterrent for women. If a woman knows her job, nothing should stop her from progressing; and she can be a role model for other women.
Another challenge was adapting to new technology that was introduced over the years, for example, the shift from using typewriter to computers. I had to teach myself, as no formal training was provided. However, I was very committed to my job and persevered through these difficult times. I am now computer proficient, and proud of my achievement.
It has been very rewarding to see Sigatoka town grow and develop to its present glory. All the paperwork related to the development and changes within town were prepared by me. As a result, I feel part of all the developments including the development of Lawaqa Park, the bypass road, market development and the proposed river bank development.
Sigatoka needs an improvement of public conveniences as this is very important for the health and hygiene of the town. There should be awareness raising programs on litter and civic pride in cities and towns.
Words of Advice
Start by getting involved with your local community through social work and community development issues. Be part of awareness raising campaigns so you understand the issues and are then able to advocate on important issues.
I also feel local government is a good way to improve communities. I would encourage young women to acquire a high level of education and then contest elections so that a balanced gender perspective is incorporated in policymaking.
Monday, August 2nd, 2010
- Less than 25% of local government employees are women, with representation as low as 7.6% in two councils
- The majority of women employees hold support positions within the administration, finance and health services areas
- Only 16% of chief executive officers are women. In fact there has only been three women CEOs in the history of local government in Fiji
- Women in senior management positions represent less than 8% of the local government workforce
- Only 2% of local government field staff are women
- Women represented only 14.5% of elected councillors in 2008 and 3 councils have never had women councillors
- 1 out of 7 Special Administrators are women. (In February 2009, the Interim Government of Fiji appointed Special Administrators to act as the governing head of municipal councils following the expiry of the term of elected councillors and deferment of local elections.)
- The average number of women on government boards and committees is less than 20%, well below the national and regional target and recent figures indicates numbers have decreased.
Monday, August 2nd, 2010
The WiLG Network consists of local government employees, former councillors and other men and women interested in supporting women’s participating in local government. The primary purpose of the network is to:
- Raise awareness of the achievements of WiLG nationally
- Identify and promote strategies to remove barriers to the advanceent of women in senior anagement positions
- Provide networking and information sharing opportunities nationally and internationally
- Provide opportunities for leadership and other technical skills training specifically for women in local government
- Provide professional development and training as well as development opportunities for women at all levels
- Share and promote best council practices in diversity management, flexible working practices, family friendly workplaces, professional development and succession planning etc
- Share and promote best council practices to engender service delivery
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