An employee-led network aimed at empowering women in the infrastructure sector has been launched by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU) in partnership with the Australian High Commission.

This initiative signifies a significant stride in enforcing the ministry’s Inclusivity Policy, designed to create a positive workplace culture that is gender diverse and inclusive in which women and men are equally represented, valued, and rewarded because it recognizes that males and females have different needs and perspectives to consider.

Spanning across various branches of MIPU including the Public Works Department (PWD), Marine, Corporate Services Unit, and Vanuatu Maritime and Safety Authority, the network emerges as a platform to break societal barriers restricting women in certain job roles.

Chairlady of the network, Joylyn Boe, emphasized the network’s role in providing a supportive space for women facing workplace challenges, acknowledging the need for a forum where issues can be addressed comfortably—a space sometimes lacking in existing committees.

The network’s vision extends beyond mere inclusion, with plans for tailored training programs focusing on leadership skills specifically for women.

Corporate Services Manager and a network member, Mary Navaika, highlighted the necessity for unity within MIPU, especially with the increasing presence of women in the ministry, to collectively confront prevalent challenges.

“MIPU is a Ministry dominated by men. If we want a breakthrough to happen, we must come together under one unit, especially at this time, when more women are entering the Ministry. We have now the opportunity to collaborate and address the many existing challenges,” she said.

Acknowledging the predominantly male landscape within MIPU, Acting Director of PWD, Andre Iautipu, emphasized the importance of female representation in leadership and decision-making roles, aiming for a more balanced workforce.

An Action Plan, formulated after surveying female staff across MIPU, outlines key focus areas, including strategies for enhancing recruitment and promotion of women into managerial positions, introducing mentoring programs, ensuring workplace safety, and advancing the cause of women through the Women’s Network.

Australian High Commission First Secretary for Infrastructure, Paul Regnault, underscored the pivotal role of the network in steering Vanuatu towards a fairer and more prosperous society, emphasizing that investing in women’s employment is not just morally right but also pivotal for business growth.

The launch witnessed the participation of key advocates for gender equality from organizations like the Vanuatu Women Centre, the Civil Society Network, and the Vaturisu Council of Chiefs.

Dr. Andrina KL Thomas, Secretary of Women Against Crime and Corruption (WACC) and Secretary General of the Vanuatu Civil Society Influencing Network (VCSIN) highlighted the significance of having women representatives in infrastructure planning, stressing the need to address diverse needs from both genders.

President of the Vaturisu Council of Chiefs, Chief Simeon Poilapa, on the other hand, urged his counterparts to pave the way for women’s active participation without prejudice or discrimination, emphasizing the nation’s progression reliant on gender-inclusive policies.

The MIPU Women’s Network stands as the second government institution after the Women’s Association Network in the Vanuatu Police Force to champion such initiatives empowering women in the workforce.

With the official launch completed, the focus now shifts towards formulating a comprehensive work plan, securing necessary budgetary support, and diligently executing the outlined priorities to drive meaningful change within MIPU.