As part of the ongoing series #PacificPossible, the World Bank has been getting to know some of the region’s young and emerging leaders for their take on what’s possible for the future of their countries and the major challenges ahead.
For International Women’s Day 2018 – the World Bank is sharing stories from the inspiring young women they met from across the Pacific - highlighting that one of the Pacific’s best resources is its people and talented young women.
Tell us about yourself
I’ve spent the last 10 years working with the Government of the Republic of Marshall Islands. My work in the Ministry of Finance focuses on improving Public Financial Management. This can be a big challenge but the work is important so it is very exciting at the same time.
I am currently the Secretary of Finance. I’ve been with the Ministry for three years, and prior to that I was with the Ministry of Health. My very first job was with the Economic Planning and Statistics Office on performance based budgeting. I enjoyed that first role a lot but had a lot of support from mentors, which was important.
You have spent your career in public service – what makes you devoted to public service? What do you think public service can achieve for the Marshall Islands?
You have to love what you are doing. You can’t be forced to work with the government. I think one factor that made me want to go into public service was that both of my parents worked for the government. They would constantly speak of accountability and efficiency and solving these problems, and that gave me a very strong sense of wanting to give back to people.
What advice would you give to young women who want to become involved in public service?
Don’t hold back, when we come into some fields as women we are a bit hesitant, particularly within Pacific culture. It can be easy to think: I’m a woman - we can’t really talk, but you have to put those thoughts in the back of your mind.
To young women I would say, “Don’t let anything hold you back, Don’t be shy, Don’t let cultural barriers stop you, find your own way around them AND make a difference.”
Do you think the public service and other professional careers can be harder for women?
Very much so, I surely felt I was not adequate. I didn’t know much when I started in my career and I was required to give training and I found it intimidating. I thought: Who will listen to me? But over time you become tougher. It was exposure that I needed most of all. Low self esteem plays a part in that too. But you do the years and get the experience. Now when I see new college graduates I can tell they have the same worries as I had, but just continuing to push forward, your confidence grows. When you become reliable they will rely on you.
What’s your favorite quote or saying?
My dad was always one of my biggest influences especially in terms of ethics and honesty. He used to say, “It’s always better to be respected than to be liked. You always need to choose what is right.” He used to tell me that and now I say it to everyone, including my husband.
What are the biggest issues in RMI right now and how can we fix them?
We’re a small nation. We have only a little over 50,000 people and have our challenges in terms of location, transport and communication so we have to work with what we have. We want to develop our islands but climate change is a big threat for us. We have tonnes of issues to deal with for our development to progress.
Now we are getting more assistance from World Bank*, ADB, EU but now we need process capacity for implementation and we need to improve governance for project management systems.
Where do you see the Pacific as a region, in 25 years? What are your hopes?
The region’s issues are similar to RMI’s in general. The region has a small population and has similar challenges in terms of remoteness etc. I think the region needs to come together more and speak with one voice on our cross cutting issues, particularly climate change.
If you could be remembered for one thing – what would it be?
Someone who wanted to help.
Someone who wanted to make a difference to their community, genuinely, and nothing else.
*The World Bank is providing support to the Republic of Marshall Islands to help communities more effectively deal with the impacts of climate change, increase the amount of green, efficient and reliable renewable energy, and improve connectivity in the nation through an ICT support program.