This is the same thing my Pacific sisters are going through

By Louisa Gibbs and Sian Rolls, Pacific Women.

Greta Harris. Photo credit: Women’s Leadership Initiative

‘Wait a minute! We’re not alone here!’

‘This is the same thing that my Pacific sisters are going through!’ Nauru’s Greta Harris realised during her Women’s Leadership Initiative experience.

‘For some women, [leadership] is double pressure. We have so much on our hands just holding up the family,’ she said.

Ms Harris was one of 34 selected Australia Awards scholars from 10 Pacific Island countries participating in the 2019 round of the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), supported by Australia through Pacific Women. Participants benefit from training, mentoring and other support to fulfil their leadership potential and to drive big ideas and reforms in their home communities.

As an Australia Awards scholar, she has completed a dual Master of Public Policy and Master of Diplomacy at the Australian National University. This complements her experience working in health and economics program management for government and development partners. With the skills gained through WLI, Ms Harris is leading COVID-19 awareness responses and advancing innovative activities back home in Nauru using civil society and social media to promote women’s participation in politics.

‘I’ve been to many, many leadership courses and conferences, but this was special,’ Ms Harris said.

‘We camped outdoors and… did these exercises that was about teaching us how to work in teams, how to approach leadership in different ways. Networking exercises were quite transformational for me as I always thought I knew how to network properly. But I learned how to network in an intelligent manner,’ she said.

‘I loved the coaching sessions … [The coach] was really good at pulling me out of that safe bubble and helping me to identify my leadership style strengths and how to overcome things that are weaknesses.’

She described how the scholars ‘formed such a strong bond’ during the program with a shared understanding that they are all ‘put in situations where we are pushed to fail, crumbling, self-doubt and all those things that rear up when pushed.’ She added: ‘WLI helped us to identify this, use self-care and find the right way of dealing with difficult situations.’

‘I came away [from WLI] with a tool kit to move forward in the things I thought I would do.

‘It is the best thing that has happened to me in my life so far besides my double masters [degrees].’

This story has been developed for the Pacific Women Annual Progress Report 2019. It features a Pacific Women-funded initiative and partner. For more information about Pacific Women’s support for initiatives across the region, refer to the interactive map:

Through a 10-year commitment, Pacific Women connects more than 170 gender equality initiatives funded by the Australian Government and implemented by over 160 partners across 14 Pacific Island countries. Providing technical, knowledge sharing and convening support to the portfolio of partners is Pacific Women’s Support Unit, working to improve the long-term impact of gender equality projects in the Pacific.