‘Women today are empowered to take on trade jobs because employers continue to shape working conditions that recognise gender equality and the contribution of women in the work place.’
This was the message conveyed by guest speaker Theda Theo of Papua New Guinea at the inaugural Pacific Skills Summit held at The University of the South Pacific in Suva on 25-26 June.
A welder by profession, Theda has more than 15 years of experience in her trade and now works as a trainer, teaching students metal fabrication and welding at the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC). She credits her career success to her family support to pursue a future in trades.
According to Theda, employers have the power to eliminate gender disparity in the workplace and create a safe, enabling environment for women to thrive in their roles. She has started to witness these changes in Port Moresby where she has worked most of her life; however, as she recalls, the journey was not easy.
Theda reflected on the lack of freedom for working women who wish to start a family but also said family support is vital for working women who are expected to balance career aspirations and family obligations.
“It is through the support of our families that we women can advance in our careers in traditionally male-dominated trades. I am where I am as a national trainer in metal fabrication and welding because of the support of my family. I have not reach this point in my career on my own, I am fortunate to have had my family stand with me,” she said.
Theda’s story is a testament of the global shift in gender equality that continues to gain momentum.
The Pacific community is on board and Pacific leaders are at the forefront of championing change in the Pacific.
The 2019 Pacific Skills Summit is an initiative of the Pacific Skills Partnership launched in Nauru in 2018 by then President Baron Divavesi Waqa in his capacity as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum. The vision of the Partnership is to inspire and stimulate the creation of new, innovative and practical approaches that will strengthen the Pacific skills pool.
The Summit brought together more than 30 speakers from 12 countries in the Pacific and beyond, and was attended by some 400 participants from the government, private sector and civil society groups.
Participants had the opportunity to listen and interact with guest speakers like Theda on a range of key issues concerning Pacific skills, including gender equality, the future of work, climate change and sustainable development in the Pacific.
Theda remains adamant that employers can create a safe working environment for women in trade, and regardless of the nature of the business, to uphold gender equality in the work place. These are the things she believes will create an enabling environment for empowered women to thrive, advance in their careers and contribute to Pacific prosperity.
“Women pay taxes and we contribute to superannuation funds, so regardless of our gender, we are contributing to economic growth,” said Theda.
Theda is one of 18 female trainers at APTC, including three women who are trainers in non-traditional trades such as carpentry, light vehicle automotive, and metal fabrication.