Vanuatu Public Servant Recognized with Women of Courage Award Nomination (July 5, 2016)

Port Vila, Vanuatu:Dorosday Kenneth Watson has been honored as the Vanuatu nominee for the 2016 U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. Ms. Kenneth Watson was honored as this year’s nominee in recognition of her work advocating for women in Vanuatu becoming empowered in the political, economic, and civic arenas. 

Established in 2007, the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award honors women around the globe who have exemplified exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress — often at great personal risk.

U.S. Embassy Port Moresby honored Ms. Watson during an award ceremony held today at the U.S. Peace Corps Office.

U.S. Ambassador Catherine Ebert-Gray said she was thrilled to honor Ms. Kenneth Watson as the 2016 Vanuatu nominee for the International Women of Courage Award. During her remarks at the award ceremony, Ambassador Ebert-Gray said, “There are many issues young democracies around the world face: from governance and political stability to health and environmental concerns. By honoring Ms. Kenneth Watson today, we are honoring all women who have struggled, survived, and succeeded; who have faced unbelievable hardships and discrimination.”

“Dorosday has been at the forefront of gender issues in Vanuatu for several years.  It is because of her efforts, that women in Vanuatu are finally becoming empowered in the political, economic, and civic arenas.”

Ms. Dorosday Watson currently serves as the Director of the Vanuatu Department of Women’s Affairs – the first female department director in Vanuatu’s Public Service.   Prior to her position with the Women’s Affairs office, she was the Director of the Department of Fisheries and the Department of Agriculture.

Ms. Watson tirelessly pressed the all-male parliament to consider a bill for temporary special measures for women’s representation in politics.  Her midnight lobbying included convincing the male politicians to set aside the job of Deputy Mayor of Port Vila for a female candidate.  After a hard-fought battle by Ms. Kenneth Watson, the Vanuatu parliament unanimously passed legislation mandating a 30-34% temporary special quota for women’s representation in Municipal Councils.

Ms. Kenneth Watson did not stop there.  The lack of opportunities provided to women in education and decision making reinforces a culture of women’s oppression.   To overcome this cycle and ensure the success of women candidates, Ms. Kenneth Watson worked to train candidates for the 2013 Port Vila municipal council elections and has continued to mentor the group in addition to her official duties.  Municipal elections in Vanuatu’s second major center, Luganville, took place in July 2015 and saw four women elected to reserved seats and one woman elected to an open seat.  Ms. Kenneth Watson helped in candidate preparations in that contest as well.  Because of Ms. Kenneth Watson’s efforts women in Vanuatu are finally getting a voice in the political arena.