Painaha: Gender and Leadership in 'Are'Are Society, the South Sea Evangelical Church and Parliamentary Leadership-Solomon Islands
This thesis stems from my own experience as an advocate for peace as well as a victim during the recent civil conflict that shocked Solomon Islands from 1998 to 2003. I had the opportunity to live and work under a leadership in crisis situation where law and order was absent, the economy collapsed and people and leaders were confused. Amidst the confusion, women took an active role in confronting the situation at its peak, a week after the 5th June 2000 coup, visiting the militants' camps around Honiara, helping victims of the conflict and voicing their concerns to leaders. This thesis is about gender and leadership. Many Solomon Islanders including myself are searching for solutions to ensure that history does not repeat itself and produce further discord. In doing so, finding new leadership models that would engage both genders and different leadership institutions working in partnership with each other at all levels is necessary. This thesis examines the presence and absence of women in three separate leadership spheres: the 'Are'Are society, the South Sea Evangelical Church and Parliamentary leadership. The three objectives are, to examine to what extent women exercise leadership in the three leadership spheres, to study the factors that contribute to women's limited access to formal leadership and to examine whether it is possible for women to make a difference if they are involved in the different leadership positions. The questions asked are: whether the roles women perform in both the private and public spheres and the formal and informal structures are leadership roles? Should their roles warrant them leadership positions within these three leadership spheres? Should their roles accord them the title "leader"? Are women satisfied with their current roles and position within the three leadership spheres? The research framework was based on my personal position as a knowledgeable insider. The methodologies used include focus group interviews, participant observation and face to face interviews with 41 leaders who hold or have held leadership positions in these three leadership spheres within Solomon Islands. Secondary information sources were also valuable. In this thesis, I argue that the issue of gender and leadership is critical for rethinking and redesigning the future direction of Solomon Islands as a nation state. It will be the key ingredient in reconstructing and rebuilding the new Solomon Islands. The rebuilding process will mean reclaiming women's leadership roles in the three spheres, providing training for women and men leaders, providing political awareness in the wider community and addressing corruption and malpractice in the political electoral process. Developing a strong, well-disciplined pool of women and men leaders within the three leadership spheres, in particular the formal and Parliamentary leadership is what Solomon Islands needs.