Worry over women on boards

Fiji Women's Rights Movement board chair Makereta Waqavonovono says recent board appointments by government make women's participation in leadership "an illusion.". Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

WOMEN’s participation on state boards and commissions has slightly worsened despite promises by the Coalition Government to strongly promote women’s rights.

Fiji Women’s Rights Movement board chair Makereta Waqavonovono made this claim in a statement which said the movement obtained updated data on 27 out of 38 state-owned enterprises that were covered in its 2020 survey and analysis.

She said in September 2020, there appeared to be a little change in the representation of women in leadership positions, particularly on state-owned enterprises boards.

Research in 2023, however, revealed that women’s representation on boards remained stagnant at 20 per cent, in fact slightly lower from 21 per cent in 2020.

Ms Waqavonovono said the bottom line was nothing much had changed for women on boards in the past three years, nor since the 2022 General Election.

“In 2020, the most privileged group on boards was men, and it still in the case three years later,” she said.

According to their findings, recent appointments include all-male representatives in some of the boards; Land Transport Authority, Fiji Roads Authority, Amalgamated Telecom Holdings Ltd, Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, and Fiji Sugar Corporation.

Ms Waqavonovono said the only overall improvement were indigenous Fijian males.

“Women have been overlooked again despite numerous confirmed applications made by qualified women for board positions.

“This makes a mockery of the Coalition Government promises that it will be better for women of all ethnic groups.”

She said there was an optimistic outlook for a reasonable increase in women’s participation in leadership in national governance boards with the recent change in leadership at the national level.

Ms Waqavonovono said it was meaningless to say that there should be an overall 30 per cent representation of women on all boards in total.

“This makes women’s participation in leadership an illusion and genuine leadership means participation in all boards, and all sectors.”

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