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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Solomons women in uniform returned from Australia after learning how to lead change in workplace

by Jeremy Miller

Solomon Islands women working in law and justice have returned from Australia after learning how to lead change in their workplace. Senior Sergeant Catherine Kere from Solomon Islands Prison Service and Gloria Suluia from RAMSI’s Law and Justice Program attended “Women Leading Change”, the Fifth Australasian Women and Policing Conference held in Melbourne.

Female officers from around the Asia Pacific Region including a delegation of Police and Prisons Officers from Solomon Islands attended the conference.

Both Ms Kere and Ms Suluia said they enjoyed meeting with other female officers from the Asia Pacific region.

Ms Suluia said she was encouraged to learn from the conference that challenges faced by women here in the Solomon Islands are the same that women face in other countries within Police and Prison Services.

“This shows the importance of building networks and friendships with both men and women from other countries who share common interests, problems, experiences and goals”, Ms Suluia said.

“I also learnt that women can do so much more by not trying to ‘match up’ to their male counterparts. Rather, we should embrace our differences and use them wisely in their efforts to lead and develop influence within their workplace and communities”.

“We believe women can make a positive difference to policing and correctional practices in Solomon Islands.”

The conference comes at an important time for the Solomon Islands after the new Correctional Services Act was recently passed in Parliament.

Acting Commissioner of Prisons, Mr Francis Haisoma said the new law marks the beginning of a whole new era for female prison officers. “The new law will allow female prison officers to perform in many areas at work that the old laws prevented.” Mr Haisoma said.

“This will open the door for female prison officers to have equal access to career development and promotion opportunities” he said.

Ms Kere and Ms Suluia participated in a number of workshops and sessions such as, “Leading by Example” and “Leading Strategic Change in a Law Enforcement Organisation”.

RAMSI’s Acting Development Coordinator, Stuart Schaefer said that supporting the women to attend this conference was an important part of building the capacity of women to take on important decision-making jobs.

“Around the world policing and corrections are changing with more women taking on jobs previously done by men – this is making a positive difference to their workplace.”

“Like many countries, women in the Solomon Islands are not well represented in key decision making positions. This conference will provide participants with an opportunity to develop their skills and networks and to find out how women’s leadership is developing”, Mr Schaefer said.

Ms Kere and Ms Suluia said that they look forward to sharing their experiences and learnings in a presentation to the Solomon Islands Prison Service Executive Group and other key stakeholders. They will also work closely with the prison’s Women’s Network to develop a Gender Equity Policy for the Solomon Islands Prison Service. This policy will be a key to managing change and getting women accepted into key roles within the prison service.

It is also intended that the Solomon Islands Prison Service will work with other law enforcement jurisdictions within the Solomon Islands to hold a Women in Uniform Conference in 2008 to reinforce the need for women to take a lead role in policing, corrections and other law enforcement jurisdictions.

Source: RAMSI

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