Women in Blue
Pacific: More women are joining Pacific island police forces as gender equality becomes less of a myth and more of a reality.
The Pacific Regional Policing Initiative is an example of Australia's success to date in integrating gender equality into Pacific policing policies.
With a deliberate focus on activities to promote women's participation and benefits, the policing initiative is ensuring women's issues are not quietly buried in a profession traditionally dominated by men.
Instead it's making sure that both men and women have equal access to opportunities, such as management development.
Since the policing initiative started in 2003, there has been a measurable increase in women police across the Pacific region in both operational and training roles. There's also an increase in senior leadership support for the part played by women police and in policies that explicitly targe women. Police commissioners and other senior officials are highly effective champions of gender equality, especially in their support of women in leadership positions.
But as Paulini Matavewa, Manager of AusAID's Law and Justice program in Suva, warns, it's not all plain sailing. The regional policing initiative has also exposed some serious blocks to gender equality. 'Family expectations and cultural taboos often work against career aspirations for females, as well as a lack of confidence and adequate peer support networks'.
These may be some of the factors that inhibit gender integration and equality yet the outlook is optimistic. 'We know the areas where we must do more - for example, we must improve the image of policing as a suitable and worthy profession for women and build up confidence levels.
Above: Practical training session in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. (Photo: Bryn Jones/PRPI)