Loisy Auariri Wate of West ‘Are’Are Rokotanikeni Association, Donna Makini of Women's Rights Action Movement, and Alice Aruhe’eta Pollard of West ‘Are’Are Rokotanikeni Association. Photo: Gemma Carr

Our Voice: Women leading change through WAVE

Photo: Anna E. Carlile

WAVE is a ground-breaking women’s leadership program that brings together and supports individual women, organisations, and movements in Asia and the Pacific region to increase the representation of women in diverse leadership positions.

Last Thursday was International Women’s Day, a day when we celebrate the contributions of diverse women and the many ways in which women are leading change all over the world.

International Women’s Day also a day when we come together to demand action from our Governments to meet their international commitments to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

One such commitment is to the 17 Global Goals which form part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. You can read more about these goals here.

Women’s leadership and meaningful participation is critical to making progress across the Global Goals in two crucial ways:

Firstly, women must be equally represented in national, regional and international mechanisms to implement the Global Goals. This must be more than consultation; women must be recognised and promoted as leaders on the 2030 agenda. You cannot achieve progress on a global agenda leaving half the population out of decision making.

Secondly, we won’t achieve change across the Global Goals unless we invest in and support women’s leadership across political, economic and social spaces and at all levels. This is a question of fairness and equality; women have a right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. We also know that the leadership of women is crucial to building peace, to ensuring the needs and priorities of women are being represented in policy decisions and to creating institutions and systems which work for everyone.

Under Target 5.5 of the Global Goals, Governments have committed to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life. This target is supported by two indicators: the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments and local governments (5.5.1) and the proportion of women in managerial positions (5.5.2).

The inclusion of local level government is crucial. Often when we talk about women’s leadership, it’s just to discuss women’s representation at the national level, such as in Parliament.  While this representation is important, it’s also vital for women to have a voice at the local and community levels.  Decisions made at the local level have a huge impact on the everyday lives of women and girls.

Through IWDA’s WAVE program, women’s rights organisations across Pacific and Asia are coming together to raise awareness about the importance of women’s leadership at the local level. The Global Goals, and the resulting obligation on Governments to take measures to include more women in decision making, are an important lever for change.

To mark this International Women’s Day, partners of the WAVE program launched Our Voice, a joint advocacy campaign demanding action on women’s participation in local decision making across five countries in the Pacific and Asia.  We are more powerful when we work together. Why not join us?