Cherol is Director of local authorities in Vanuatu, facilitating assistance from the national government to the two municipal councils and six provincial government bodies. She is also Acting Commissioner of the capital’s Port Vila Municipal Council.
Local government agencies are a viable and important entry point for creating good governance and human security. It is important to have gender equality in local government as well as national parliaments. In Vanuatu the representation of women in decision making bodies in the public sector continues to be a major challenge, despite a minimum target of 30% female representation set by successive governments. Achieving shared decision making strengthens the democratic process of governance and is necessary to take into account women’s interests and goals of equality, development and peace. Local government is the decision making entity in local communities that promotes the wellbeing of residents and services such as the market, public conveniences and garbage disposal. Local government is an important entry point for women to access positions of power.
Cherol Ala plays a role in making sure basic services are delivered in Port Vila, that people are content with the services and funding provided and that there is a constant flow of information from communities to provincial government: “It will take a lot of awareness to advance women’s role in decision making, men have yet to understand that women can perform better in politics. In Vanuatu we have only one woman member of parliament, and she doesn’t have a ministerial portfolio. There is one woman in municipal government, a deputy mayor in a northern region. There are no women elected officials in provincial government but an Act provides for nominated members.
There are six nominated women but they can only participate in discussion, not vote: “To get more women into local government, men have to realize women can do a good job. Women have to organize themselves to affiliate with political parties and play more significant roles where their expertise and contribution can be recognized. It is hard for women to do this on their own, women contesting as a member of a women’s political party has not been successful. In Vanuatu we would encourage women to affiliate with existing political parties so that when their contribution is recognized they can be chosen as candidates for election. We have a policy paper to put women, youth, chiefs and church representatives on area councils, but if women are elected then they are on the same level as men. You need to be recognized and gain the respect.”
“I have been Director for more than eight years in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and 22 years in public service. Being in a role when you have the institutional knowledge is a bonus because you have the strength of understanding the institution. If you display the skills and knowledge you respect yourself, respect your male counterparts and then you get respect.