The society has been tirelessly
advocating for gender equality and a lot of money were spent on women empowerment programs.

Yet, little has been done to put into practice as cultural norms continue to shut many women out from leadership roles. It’s not easy for women to become leaders because they are deceived by the wider society as weak and are not better bosses than men.

The cultural norms are deeply rooted everywhere in Vanuatu. However, the pace of change for gender parity is slowly accelerating.

The people of Sunai, a village on Moso island, off northwest Efate, have decided to welcome change and take lead in empowering women in the community by choosing a woman to head their village tribunal council.

The village has an ‘all female council’ for the first time this year. Chairlady, Leimalu Tapasei, was appointed along with all female executive members who will be administrating community affairs for the next two years.

For the first time in its history, the village has given customary right to a woman when the council has always been male dominated, said the Chairman of the Sunae Village Area Council of Chiefs, Jimmy Meameadola.

“Such appointment has never been made by the tribe before. Culturally, women are prohibited to hold such customary position.

“Mrs Tapasei was appointed on merit for contributing enormously to community development,” he said.

Asked if there are challenges she faced since taking over the role, Tapasei replied: “My appointment to the customary position was the biggest challenge.

“Now that I am heading the council, it’s only the daily matters.”

She was elected three months ago.

The chairlady revealed that things she accomplished so far include the establishment of village terms of reference, bylaws and mission statement as well as restructuring the council organizational structure by creating sub-committees to deal with issues such as education, health, water, environment, business, infrastructure, land and disaster. Tapasei said during her term she will advocate for the importance of respect in custom governance and sustainable development through establishing network between the government, civil and NGO’s. READ MORE