Award Winner Identifies Parliament Barriers

Lois Toramo receiving her award from the EU Ambassador to SI and Vanuatu, His Excellency Leonidas Tezapsidis.

THE winner of the ‘Senior Students Category’ Award at the Secondary School Poster and Essay Competition on Women’s Leadership and Political Participation, Lois Toramo has clearly identified the barriers that make it difficult for women to be in parliament, provincial assemblies and other senior government offices.

The form five female student of Mbokonavera Community High School, Lois Toramo highlighted several possible solutions to increase women’s leadership and political participation in Parliament in her award-winning essay.

Lois identified education, physical make up and culture as the three major barriers, which makes it difficult for women to be in parliament.

“Women are capable of doing things men can do but because of some negative thoughts and issues they faced, makes them turn away from pursuing their goals,” she highlighted.

The award ceremony was held at the Art Gallery grounds in Honiara.

She said one of the barriers is ‘Education’. Women tend to look at themselves and think they are not well educated and so they are not qualified to take up leadership roles in leading a society or a country.

“This type of mindset has ruined many women whose dreams are to become leaders. Now a days women are trying their best to take up scholarships or go for further studies in the fields that would enable them to be in those higher offices in order to be confident and smart when it comes to decision making within the political level whereby gender balance must be emphasised,” he said.

She said another barrier is the ‘physical makeup’ of a female. She stated that most women believe that without the full support of men in terms of manpower, they will never succeed or achieve what they want.

“In many cases they always hesitate to try out new ideas because they feel inferior to men. Women are always considered to be weak physically and not as strong as men and cannot do things on their own.

“In most of our societies, a lot of men do not really support women when it comes to leading or women to be in parliament, provincial assemblies or other government offices,” the student award winner said.

The 2017-2018 Secondary School Poster and Essay Competition were divided into two components – a poster competition for artists and an essay competition for writers. The competition has also attracted increased participation of 170 poster and essay entries from 31 schools throughout the Solomon Islands.

Lois added that Culture is also a barrier the youth mentioned in her essay and this is true for not only women in our country itself but this is faced by almost all women in the pacific region.

“This has in fact made it very difficult for them to take part or even participate in leadership roles at all levels.

“Our cultures tend to make men look down on women and in our cultural settings, men have the mentality that they should always be the boss, more especially when it comes to do with leadership roles and decision making.

“This makes women who wish to take on the challenge to be defeated and always sit back and not to take up leadership roles actively,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said women should be empowered by giving them more opportunities to excel in different fields of works.

“Despite of the physical make up of women in terms of the fact that they are not physically fit as men, women should be encouraged to be positive thinkers.

“Being a women does not mean giving up when faced with challenges, though we live in a male dominated society, keeping working hard and believe in yourself. One step at a time will make big changes.

She said women should not allow culture to ruin their determination in achieving their goals and dreams.

“Although culture is a very important aspect in our Melanesians societies, women should at least try and fight for their right and not allow culture to limit what they are doing and achieving.

“I would like to say that being a female does not mean you are not capable of being a leader. Trust your potentials and be bold in your decision-making and never allow your challenges and short falls over take you.

“Tell yourself, if men can do it, why not me?

The Competitions (2016 and 2017-2018) have been supported by UNDP through the Strengthening the Electoral Cycle Project of Solomon Islands (SECSIP II). SECSIP II is implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC). It receives financial support from UNDP, the European Union and the Government of Australia.