15 Sep 2020

Pacific women urged to pursue decision making roles and fight against corruption

11:43 am on 15 September 2020

Pacific women have been urged to seek decision-making roles, and join boards and councils to fight corruption.

New research finds scholarships and persistence are paying off in efforts to get more women in the Pacific into senior government jobs.

New research finds scholarships and persistence are paying off in efforts to get more women in the Pacific into senior government jobs. Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

The United Nations is launching an anti-corruption toolkit for women-owned micro, small and medium enterprises in Fiji this week.

It has called on Pacific women to contribute to national economies by helping strengthen anti-corruption legislation and policies.

A UN regional anti-corruption advisor, Sonja Trajanoska, said in this way women can make a difference in development outcomes.

"When we think about corruption, we think about how people's lives are going to change," Trajanoska said.

"The consequences of corruption on people's lives are huge so we are hoping that with our efforts, we will be fighting food security, we will be improving health and education and we will be creating conditions for more jobs and lifelong opportunities," she said.

The launch follows last month's partnership between New Zealand and the UN's Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption project to improve the livelihoods of people in 13 countries.

Pacific government representatives meet in Kiribati.

Pacific government representatives meet in Kiribati. Photo: Supplied/UNDP

Trajanoska said amid Covid-19, the Toolkit offers practical guidance on what constitutes corruption in the Pacific.

She said it includes what laws and institutions are used to prevent and fight corruption amid the pandemic, and "who you can ask for help, in line with international best practice found in the United Nations Convention against Corruption and Sustainable Development Goal 16".

She said the Toolkit was developed after consultations with local women entrepreneurs on how to safeguard their businesses and not fall prey to corruption risks.

Chair of the Fiji Women Entrepreneurs Business Council, Eseta Nadakuitavuki, said women should take up these roles to fight corruption with a "known vaccine of transparency".

"As women entrepreneurs or women-owned businesses not only play a crucial role in the community, but more importantly contribute positively to the national economy,"Eseta Nadakuitavuki said.

"It is vital that all women whether you work in a corporate body, own a micro size business or medium sized enterprise are made aware of what constitutes corruption, what laws and institutions are used to prevent and fight corruption,"she said.

"Most importantly, whom you can ask for help when you are confronted with a potential instance of corruption."

Sonja Trajanoska.

Sonja Trajanoska. Photo: Supplied/UNDP

Nakakuitavuki said the council was grateful to this partnership with the UN's Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption project and believed the toolkit could help by offering tips and tools on how to protect businesses against corruption.

"When we approached UN-PRAC, our request was to train our members on anti-corruption initiatives specifically for MSMEs," she said.

Nakakuitavuki said most studies had focused on aggregate measures of corruption and failed to explain why the correlation between women's representation and levels of corruption occurred.

"It further shows the different forms of corruption and that the inclusion of women in local councils is strongly negatively associated with the prevalence of both petty and grand forms of corruption."

But she said the reduction in corruption was primarily experienced among women.

The regional anti-corruption project is operating in 13 Pacific countries.

They are the Cook Islands, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The new partnership with New Zealand that was launched in Suva, Fiji and is worth over $US16 million.

Sonja Trajanoska said the first regional anti-corruption conference by Pacific governments was held in Kiribati in early February this year and was supported by UN-PRAC.

She said Pacific leaders signed the Teieniwa Vision: Pacific Unity Against Corruption.

She said they have committed themselves to addressing corruption across the region, "recognising that all of our progress and aspirations for a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous Pacific cannot be realised unless we address corruption.

"Pacific leaders and representatives in attendance included the President and Vice President of Kiribati, the Prime Ministers of Samoa and the Cook Islands, as well as ministers from Tonga and the Solomon Islands, ambassador from the Marshall Islands, high commissioners of Australia and New Zealand and a representative from the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption," Trajanoska said.