‘If we want to make any credible changes, we need to change our behaviours because we hold such important positions in the Solomon Islands government. We need to lead by example. Solomon Islands has a bright future; the Public Service of Solomon Islands has a bright future. We need to build on this and not lose hope. We have the power to change any discriminatory attitudes but this change must start with us,’ said the Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Eliam Tangirongo.
The Solomon Islands Public Service Commission, in partnership with the Ministry for Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs (MWYCFA), convened the first ever government-wide gender training for all permanent secretaries in the Solomon Islands government today. The workshop was supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
In 2012, the Solomon Islands government included a specific performance indicator on gender mainstreaming in the annual performance appraisal for all permanent secretaries.
In her welcome remarks, Permanent Secretary for MWYCFA Ethel Sigimanu said, ‘gender mainstreaming within our respective ministries is our responsibility. For a long time, the Solomon Islands government has undertaken a “women in development” approach to empowering women. However, our national gender equality policy 2010–2015 moves beyond this – it addresses attitudes, structures and organisational behaviour.’ She added, ‘the national gender equality policy is a whole of government policy, not a Ministry for Women policy, and I need the support of my peers in making this policy work for all men, women and children of the Solomon Islands.’
Jerry Manele, Permanent Secretary for Development Planning and Aid Coordination, also emphasised that this was a critical and timely workshop, especially preparation begins for the Mid-term Development Plan (MDTP) of the Solomon Islands Government overall Development Strategy. ‘We are now in the process of consulting with line ministries to include their respective priorities and we encourage all the ministries to use the MTDP as an opportunity to integrate gender. In addressing gender mainstreaming in the ministry, our plan is to undertake a holistic approach to ensure the sustainability of gender mainstreaming. Therefore we would need to discuss how gender is integrated into national priorities, and how we can ensure gender is included in project planning and appraisals,’ he added.
‘This workshop is very timely because we are approaching our mid-term review for all permanent secretaries. I know many [permanent secretaries] have been asking what exactly you need to do with this new key performance area – this is a long-term and continuous effort by all of us. We see this workshop as an opportunity to understand why it is important for us to do this work, how we can support gender mainstreaming within our own respective ministries. We also use this time to better understand our commitments under CEDAW and how we can support the Ministry for Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs,’ said Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Eliam Tangirongo, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women – to which Solomon Islands is party. ‘As heads of ministries, we need to change any discriminatory beliefs we might have. In Solomon Islands, we have a culture of “follow the leader” – if we continue any discriminatory practices towards women, our subordinates will follow us – so we need to deal with this,’ he said.
The specific indicators in the permanent secretaries’ performance appraisals include: having a gender implementation strategy in ministry corporate plans, the appointment of a gender focal point, gender sensitising the recruitment processes, developing gender profiles of the sector, collecting and disseminating sex disaggregated data, and developing a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the public service.