Women leaders meet to map out gender equality in the public sector

15 November 2011

Strong political leadership highlighted as vital in boosting gender equality and development in the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Bank have organised a high level expert meeting to discuss the current challenges facing small states and identify remedies to address them.

The meeting, 'Growth and Development in Small States', will take place in Malta from 17 to 18 November 2011.

It will focus on issues related to growth with resilience to enable countries to deal with external shocks to their economies, as well as improving competitiveness through innovation, diversification and investment.

Discussions will also focus on macroeconomic stability, debt and development financing, fostering green and sustainable development, as well as issues within the international political economy that have bearings on trade, regional integration and supply value chains.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Dr Cyrus Rustomjee, Director of Economic Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said that the Commonwealth and the World Bank have a long track record of collaboration on small states issues.

“Both institutions have worked on analytical and policy issues in small states and are collaborating once again to build further research especially in the areas of inclusive growth, growth with resilience, debt sustainability, and public sector effectiveness,” Dr Rustomjee said.

He explained that the contributions to the meeting are expected to influence the ways in which the Commonwealth, World Bank and other international organisations assist small states in their growth and development endeavours.

“The challenging economic environment we are in is placing particularly sharp pressures on small and open economies. Experts at this meeting will start to map out innovative growth strategies suitable for small states,” Dr Rustomjee said.

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba has warned that excluding women from leadership roles in the public sector will continue to perpetuate poverty and detract countries from development.

Mrs Masire-Mwamba made these comments at the opening of a senior leaders’ forum on ‘Women Leaders for Development’ held at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in Marlborough House, London, on 14 November 2011.

Women leaders from around the Commonwealth working in the public sector to implement policies and strategies for development, will map out steps to improve gender equality in the public sector at the five-day forum, and discuss strategies to become more influential and transformational in their roles.

Mrs Masire-Mwamba challenged the participants, who work in areas such as cabinet offices and the office of the president or prime minister, for a new approach to gender equality.

“There has been a thousand and one seminars on why women should be involved in governance and leadership. We know the answers to why we are where we are, what is not coming out strongly is the what or the how - how do we move beyond ourselves?” she said.

During the forum, participants will look at robust legal and policy frameworks on gender; ways to strengthen the capacity of key policy-makers; institutionalising of a gender policy; working closely with commissions on gender equality and the use of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

The Director of the Secretariat’s Governance and Institutional Development Division (GIDD), Max Everest-Phillips, said that women’s visibility in the public sector of many Commonwealth countries is still inadequate.

He noted insufficient initiatives for women to take part in decision-making at institutional and programme levels; a lack of awareness of gender issues; a lack of appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems on gender equality; employment conditions that do not accommodate women; and inadequate resources for gender-driven initiatives.

Mr Everest-Phillips said having good leaders, both men and women, working in the public sector is vital to ensuring good governance and added that the state of the civil service determines the public’s perception of a government.

“Public trust in the state depends on public administration being and appearing to be impartial – that is fair, equitable, honest and just,” he said.

The second part of activities, organised by GIDD in partnership with the World Bank and the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management, began on Tuesday, 15 November 2011, with a forum on ‘Leadership at the Centre for Senior Leaders across the Commonwealth’. It will highlight leadership issues that are fundamental to good governance and development.

Other events during the week include the launch of the ‘Commonwealth Governance Yearbook 2011/12’ which is a collection of writings from public service practitioners and experts in public administration and management.

The World Bank will also present on its experience in public service management and its new public sector reform strategy.