Samoan women need to stand up to break discrimination in the public service

Representatives from various Non Government Organisations at the Discrimination Against Women Dialogue last week

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 15 AUGUST 2017:  Men have long been seen as women’s worst enemy when it comes to climbing the employment ladder. However, a recent discussion on discrimination against women has revealed that women are much part of the equation, and an advocate for women issues has made the call on all women to stand together and fight for equality.

Last week, representatives from various Non-Government Organisations under the co-ordination of the Samoa Umbrella of Non –Government Organisation (SUNGO) met with the visiting United Nations Working Group on the issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice. The UN Working group is in Samoa on the invitation of the government.

It was at this meeting that pinpointed some of the key issues behind discrimination against women in the community, workplaces and homes.

Former Public Service Commissioner, and representing the Saoluafata To’omaga O Aiga Organisation, Dr. Maria Kerslake spoke openly about her experience.

As one of Public Service Commissioners for five years, she was in the core group of decision makers that hire and fire public servants.

Dr. Maria Kerslake

Women are women’s worst enemy         
It was at a time when four women were appointed Chief Executive Officers for the Ministry of Treasury, Health, PSC and the Attorney General’s office.

“Somehow after they got in, there was almost an immediate plan to unseat them,” said Dr. Kerslake.

“These women fought really hard to stay on, worked twice as hard as men to meet the expectations of the system, but those working under their leadership started to rubbish them, especially some women working as Assistant Chief Executive Officers,” said Dr. Kerslake.

She said in a circle of male dominant workplace, women need to be made aware of the need to support other women rather than pulling women down.

She believes that if something has to be change, it would be attitude.

“I think when we get more sophisticated in our institutions, the problem is going to get worse, and we need some awareness in terms of employment,” said Dr. Kerslake.

Equal salary for men and women
She said Samoan women are intelligent and workaholic, but they are not only fighting the system, their husbands, families, but are not getting half of the remuneration they should get.

In her research on women salaries, she found that women ACEO are not getting the same pay as their male counterparts, “and this needs to be addressed.”

She wondered why men are always appointed to higher positions when there are women with the experience and are just as qualified for the job.

“Girls always dominate the top level of schooling, went off for scholarships but when they return with degrees, it’s very difficult for them to break the seal to get into the top jobs,” said Dr. Kerslake.

“There is a mental attitude within PSC to hire men first, and I think it’s because the structures are very patriotic, and we need some women to get in there to change the structure of decision making,” said Dr. Kerslake.

She said women are being discriminated not only in salary but in positions, and women need to stand together and fight for equality within the Government system.

Dr. Kerslake was one of the two women in the public service Commissioner position for 5 years. She was also the National University of Samoa (NUS) Dean for Faculty of Arts & Humanities for 24 years.

She advocates for women issues, culture and any human issues.

There were at least four women CEOS for government Ministries and corporations

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