A great piece from FWRM’s Founding Member- Imrana Jalal below.
“𝗕𝘆 𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝘂𝘀 𝗙𝗶𝗷𝗶𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝘀𝗼 𝗽𝗼𝗼𝗿𝗹𝘆, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗲𝗿 𝗴𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗴𝘂𝗶𝗹𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝘁 𝗼𝗳 “𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗦𝘁𝘂𝗽𝗶𝗱 𝗖𝘂𝗿𝘃𝗲” – 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗺 𝗰𝗼𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝘀𝗼 𝗮𝗽𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝗯𝘆 𝗴𝗹𝗼𝗯𝗮𝗹 𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗼𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝗻 𝗽𝗼𝗼𝗿 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽” – 𝗜𝗺𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗮 𝗝𝗮𝗹𝗮𝗹, 𝟰 𝗝𝗮𝗻𝘂𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟯
In September 2020 Fiji Women’s Rights Movement produced a significant report on the lack of women and indigenous Fijians on government-controlled boards on available data. The report was given extensive coverage by The Fiji Times. FULL DISCLOSURE – I was the lead writer, with an FWRM staffer doing the bulk of the research under my supervision; with significant inputs from Makereta Waqavonovono (Chair, FWRM) and Nalini Singh (ED, FWRM). I led this research project in my private time and not under World Bank time.
As the new Fiji government attempts to make State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and Commission boards more democratic and diverse – please read the attached report by FWRM and keep the findings in mind during appointments. These are only the key findings and the attached report should be read for full context and nuances. The poor governance record of the former regime is deeply regrettable. I am told that the former government did advertise in Oct 2022 for more women, 2 years after the FWRM report was published, and 2 months before the General Election of 2022.
1. Women and indigenous Fijians or i-taukei are treated the worst in board leadership. Overall, men, Indo-Fijians and other ethnic groups are overrepresented in both gender and diversity
dimensions of Board leadership, relative to population numbers.
2. A significant number of Boards have very low numbers of Board members, either in contravention of their parent and enabling legislation, or below standard global good practices on recommended minimum Board numbers. A significant 31 of 38 or almost 82% of such Boards have less than 7 members.
3. Of 192 Board members in 38 Boards, women comprise only 21% of all Board members, or 40 of 192. Ten of 38 Boards or 26%, have less than 30% women participation. (Update – in 2022 women have dropped to 20%; For men it increased from 79 to 80%)
4. Even more worrisome is that in 2020, 16 or 42% (close to half) of 38 Boards had no women at all. Examples in 2020 included Fiji Airways (FA), ATH, FBC, FAL, Fiji Coconut Millers, FHCL, FPL, FRL, LTA, FSC, Viti Corps, WAF, EFL & YPCL. This should be of enormous concern to everyone in Fiji. (Update – we cannot find any improvements perhaps because we do not have access to information, and info is very opaque)
5. Only 7 of 38 Board Chair positions are held by women, or 18%. The women that hold these Chair positions are sometimes the same women, showing little diversity and opportunities for other women. The State needs to diversify its appointments, among women, so that more women are given the opportunity to lead and to gain experience on Boards, whether as Board members or Chairs.
6. Of the 192 Board members in the 38 Boards, indigenous Fijians comprise 61 or 32% of Board membership. Indian Fijians are 10% higher than indigenous Fijians, at 42% of Board members, whilst other ethnic groups are 50 of 192 or 26%. (2022 update – the situation worsened slightly from 32% to 31%).
7. Some 5 or 13% of boards have no indigenous Fijian participation at all, and 14 or 37% of Board have less than 30% indigenous Fijian participation. In comparison the number of Boards with no Indian- Fijian participation is 3 of 38 or only 8%, and the number of Boards with less than 30% Indian-Fijian participation is 7 of 38 or 18%. In commercial entities indigenous Fijians are somewhat more poorly represented. (2022 – Indo-Fijian numbers on boards increased from 42% to 53%, a flagrant lack of ethnic diversity)
Some Boards appear to be firmly idiosyncratic, patriarchal, and privileging certain groups. For example, why does WAF have no
women, no indigenous Fijians nor other ethnic groups? It is a monopoly after all so there is no commercial competition. Why does the LTA have no women and 80% Indian Fijians on its Board? Why do both the Fiji Roads Authority and Food Processors (Fiji) Limited have 75% Indian Fijians and 1 woman on each Board? Why does the Yaqara Pastoral Company Pte Limited (YPCL) have no women and 67% Indian Fijians? Why does the Legal Aid Commission have no women nor indigenous Fijians?
The 2017 census found that the permanent population of Fiji was 884,887. Various sources and population projections put indigenous Fijians at around 58-60% of the population, Indian Fijians at around 32% (37% in the 2007 census) and the balance (8-10%) consisting of various ethnic groups and mixed ethnicity. Men are 50.7% of the population. This combined data needs to be kept in mind while considering gender, diversity, inclusion and leadership in Fiji Boards.
Note: Our FWRM researcher says while trying to do an update in 2022, “Some public enterprises refused to give us the information, while others were secretly obliging”. This should be kept in mind.
This research indicator is a long standing programmatic goal for FWRM and was not funded in 2020.