The Balance of Power (BOP) initiative seeks to shift the attitudes and norms that prevent women from being perceived as legitimate leaders. BOP recognises that these deeply entrenched norms, attitudes and perceptions around concepts of leadership are often barriers to achieving improved balance and inclusion. Changing these requires sensitive and respectful navigation of each country’s socio-political economy.
Central to the approach of BOP is a focus on working through the values and culture of the specific context, bringing together stakeholders who are intrinsically motivated to work as part of locally-led coalitions for reform. This also involves recognising the critical role of men and norm-influencing agents and powerholders in the community, including leaders of faith-based organisations and of traditional governance structures. BOP ensures that it builds upon existing strengths and emerging “green shoots” in shifting attitudes and practices around the roles of women and men in leadership.
BOP is an investment that is explicitly using adaptive management and politically-informed ways of working to influence change in areas where development programs have habitually met with limited success. Through the depth and breadth of networks across its implementation team, BOP is able to nimbly leverage opportunities as they arise. BOP’s learnings and increasing strategic influence across Vanuatu, Tonga, and Fiji and at the regional level are an invaluable resource for broader Australian Government development cooperation in support of its Pacific partners.
OUR GOALS AND RESULTS
BOP's main activities and goals include:
- Increasing visibility of women’s leadership and influencing perceptions of its legitimacy through the media and outreach campaigns. BOP is partnering with key media players in both Vanuatu and Tonga. This includes working with the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation and local film-makers in both countries to influence the portrayal of women’s leadership across a range of media platforms. BOP is also exploring collaboration with other regional media networks.
- Strengthening the influence of the Women in Leadership Coalition, Tonga. The Women in Leadership ‘Coalition’, now called the Fi-e-Fi-a ‘a Fafine Tonga, has been revitalised to increase broad-based support for, and unified advocacy around, women’s leadership. A priority focus for the Coalition is the development of a roadmap for the introduction of Temporary Special Measures for women’s political representation.
- Addressing negative perceptions around women in political leadership and decision-making through research and targeted advocacy. BOP is working with local research partners to understand the specific reasons behind voters’ unwillingness to vote for women in Pacific contexts, and to use these findings to inform advocacy campaigns accordingly. Partners include the University of the South Pacific and the Tupou Tertiary Institute.
- Influencing regional associations to integrate social norm change strategies in their gender equality advocacy and coordination. BOP is supporting strategic regional organisations such as the University of the South Pacific Students Association Laucala Campus and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to develop regional approaches to addressing critical regional challenges. Specifically, this involves application of a social norm change lens over key issues including increasing women’s voice and agency as articulated in the 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy, plus those arising from COVID-19.