Women leadership in local authorities
8 March, 2021, 7:30 pm
Renee Duguivalu Browne and Dipti Sharma are women whose roles extend beyond careers and family commitments.
Both in their 30s, the pair are special administrators for the Lautoka City Council and Ba Town Council and represent an increasingly younger paradigm of women leadership in local authorities.
They encourage more women to join the crucial landscape of local governance and drive forward municipal developments. “Go for it!” Mrs Browne urged.
Women now lead the Ministry of Local Government, the Ba Town Council, Nasinu Town Council, and the Special Administration Boards for most of Fiji’s municipal councils.
“It’s an all-girls team. There is no longer any hindrance for women to reach any level of local government that they aspire to.”
Both women were appointed in 2019 as part of a restructured approach to the local governance and operations of Fiji’s 13 municipal councils.
Mrs Browne’s engineering background and Mrs Sharma’s marketing specialty add to the expertise sought by the Ministry of Local Government to modernise municipal practices.
As they put it, there are both challenges and opportunities as women leaders in local governance.
“I think the biggest challenge for me is managing my time between my family/personal commitments, full-time job and special administrator role,” Mrs Browne shared.
A civil engineer for Hamen Lodhia Engineers Pte Ltd in Nadi, leadership has been a natural attribute as the oldest sibling in her family.
“I am not intimidated working in a male-dominated field or sitting in a boardroom or meeting room full of men, in fact –– it’s been quite an enjoyable and interesting journey to date.
“The special administrator role has definitely provided opportunity for growth and networking.
“Whilst my contributions in the council is towards the building and engineering sections –– I am also learning a lot about finance and organisation HR.
“We have excellent special administrator forums where all these experienced minds come together, and we glean off each other and try to implement the positive lessons back at our councils.”
Mrs Sharma shared similar sentiments as an advocate of gender parity.
“Women have unique experiences and perspectives, and these are all the more relayed through female participation in local governance, and reflect the diverse needs of our communities.”
The entrepreneur owns digital media marketing firm, Eventuros Fiji, and believes that the increasing number of women in local government is a positive indication of a modernising environment that recognises and values women-led development and governance.
At least a 100 years after the first International Women’s Day in 1911, traditional gender roles are loosening their grip on women ambition as more women take the helms of public authority.