Gender equality: It’s time to make it happen

By Luse Tamani

Almost 70% of the global poor are women. Due to discrimination and lack of access to education and financial services, women are far more likely to live in poverty and, according to UN reports, earn only 10% of the world’s wages despite doing two-thirds of the world’s work.

CUFA are proud to work with women across the Asia-Pacific to empower them to access education and financial services. In Fiji, we work hand in hand with women to ensure they have equal opportunity to access to financial education,  training and leadership opportunities.

Traditionally in years past, a number of Pacific Island communities were very much managed on patriarchal lines where the image of the ideal woman was portrayed to be both humble and submissive.

Cultural barriers meant women were most often found in the kitchen, expected to be seen and not heard, and were provided with very limited access to education and income earning or generating activities as men were usually given first preference to fulfill the perception of power, superiority and as such most men benefited greatly from exciting opportunities for progress made available to them.

Over the last few decades, it has been a relief to witness the lifting of many of the stringent practices and restrictions placed upon women.  As the fight for gender equality continues, more and more women are being given the opportunity to access education, employment, leadership and development to ensure their involvement in a progressive society.

While there are still many challenges faced by women that prevent them from realizing their full potential, there is now greater recognition of the contribution women bring to the domestic, work, social and economic settings through greater accessibility and increased ability.

The Oceania Confederation of Credit Union Leagues (OCCUL) places significant value on the involvement and participation of women – not just within credit union circles but in other areas of leadership and work in general.  It has been said that women possess special qualities which set them apart from their male counterparts.  Aside from being nurturers, they’re also known to be responsible, influential and persuasive, able to multi-task, good at prioritizing, and are sensitive and understanding.  It is in recognition of these traits that OCCUL has actively advocated the engagement of women in its programs and activities in particular the annual Pacific Congress.

OCCUL offers support and publicizes the great work of the women credit union leaders within our member countries and make known the valuable work they do in the provision of financial services, accessibility and literacy to many other less fortunate women and members.   The current Chair of the OCCUL Board of Directors is a woman.

OCCUL has also benefited from the exposure received and active participation undertaken at the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) programs in the past two years. The Network connects credit union women with fellow leaders in other credit union movements all over the world and engages them in professional and personal development through social media and educational forums.  GWLN enables credit union professionals to make a global impact by sharing business knowledge and experiences with industry peers. By joining this group of proactive, professional women, members will enhance their own strengths — thereby improving their credit unions and business activities and empowering women worldwide.

Guided by the GWLN ethos, OCCUL has during past Congress events set aside a specific program providing a dialogue space for Pacific women to be enlightened and empowered.  Following the Women’s Breakfast during Congress last November, the President of the Fiji Nursing and Associates Credit Union took up the challenge of spearheading the formation and continuity of a similar network in Fiji.

OCCUL will continue to pursue and push for greater engagement of women in their outreach programs, and activities on addition to leadership and management roles.

While International Women’s Day was held on 8 March, every day is a celebration of Women worldwide and their many achievements politically, socially, and economically. The OCCUL Team wishes to acknowledge in particular, women who have risen above danger, hostility, lack, suffering and turmoil to bring about change for the better in their very own homes, families, lives and communities.

Here’s to Strong Women…May we Know them, May we Be them, May we Raise them!”

Happy IWD to all!

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