‘Such appointment has never been made by the tribe before, culturally women are prohibited to hold such customary position’
PORT VILA, Vanuatu – The society has been tirelessly advocating for gender equality and a lot of money were spent on women empowerment programs.
Yet, little has been done to put into practice as cultural norms continue to shut many women out from leadership roles. It’s not easy for women to become leaders because they are deceived by the wider society as weak and are not better bosses than men.
The cultural norms are deeply rooted everywhere in Vanuatu. However, the pace of change for gender parity is slowly accelerating.
The people of Sunai, a village on Moso island, off northwest Efate, have decided to welcome change and take lead in empowering women in the community by choosing a woman to head their village tribunal council.
The village has an ‘all female council’ for the first time this year. Chairlady, Leimalu Tapasei, was appointed along with all female executive members who will be administrating community affairs for the next two years.
For the first time in its history, the village has given customary right to a woman when the council has always been male dominated, said the Chairman of the Sunae Village Area Council of Chiefs, Jimmy Meameadola.
“Such appointment has never been made by the tribe before. Culturally, women are prohibited to hold such customary position.
“Mrs Tapasei was appointed on merit for contributing enormously to community development,” he said.
Asked if there are challenges she faced since taking over the role, Tapasei replied: “My appointment to the customary position was the biggest challenge.
“Now that I am heading the council, it’s only the daily matters.”
She was elected three months ago.
The chairlady revealed that things she accomplished so far include the establishment of village terms of reference, bylaws and mission statement as well as restructuring the council organizational structure by creating sub-committees to deal with issues such as education, health, water, environment, business, infrastructure, land and disaster. Tapasei said during her term she will advocate for the importance of respect in custom governance and sustainable development through establishing network between the government, civil and NGO’s.
“Finding an organization for us to partner with to fight coastal erosion is one of my many goals.
“Our marine resources have been exploited due to climate change. “I will ensure that our fresh water supply system is restored, build a multi-purpose women’s club house that will be utilized as a disaster relief center.
“Rebuild new community church all, establish a marine conservation park and continue facilitation short courses for community members.”
Tapasei has identified a number of goals to accomplish.
Chief Meameadola described her as bold and brave with so much talent and passion in pursuing her goals.
The chiefs and community are applauded for having confidence in her.
Chrissy Boland and Robert Monvoisin, are acknowledged for sponsoring her training at the Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC).
“This course guided me to being a council chair lady and also gave me confidence,” said Ms Tapasei.
Tapasei is not a native of Moso but is married to a man from the island. She is a trainer at VIT School of Tourism.
By Anita Roberts for Vanuatu Daily Post, 22 April 2017