Fiaapia Ropati (right) with the Deputy High Commissioner of Australia in Samoa, Mr. Barry Patterson

Fiaapia Ropati is a businesswoman from the village of Vaiusu who aspires to be a woman director. She wants to contribute to the strengthening and improving of the service provided by Public or Government Bodies, especially in the areas of policy and legislation.

She is one step closer to achieving this goal with her participation in May in the Professional Programme for Aspiring Women Directors under the Samoa Institute of Directors (SIoD).

The Programme is part of a collaborative effort between SIoD and the Women in Leadership in Samoa (WILS) Project, which aims to strengthen opportunities for women’s participation in leadership pathways by implementing professional development programs for current and aspiring women directors. The main objective is to enhance the leadership capacity of women through this programme.

“Participating in this programme and learning about the roles and responsibilities of a director have added to the skills and knowledge that I have gained from years of being a public servant. This programme has helped me to have a perspective on what a director needs in terms of planning, implementing and monitoring of the services provided by the organisation whose Board they are on. This is indeed a first step for me in my goal of being a Board director,” said Ms. Ropati.

Since the establishment of the SIoD in 2005, members to government, company and statutory boards were directly appointed by the government, with only a few women representatives on most boards. According to the Samoa Institute of Directors 2007 Annual Report, of the registered 141 members of the Institute representing both public and private sectors, 31 of them were women, or 21% of total board directors. The introduction of the Board Composition Bill in 2015 saw statutory boards, comprising members of the private sector, establishing a recruitment process for the selection of board members by an Independent Selection Committee made up of three private sector members. The recruitment of board members was opened to all those eligible to apply and be considered for selection.


Agnes Fruean and Alofa Malietoa congratulating each other at the end of the course. PC: JM (UNDP/UNWomen-WILS)

The 2016 Census shows that 49% of Samoa’s population are females. It is also noted that women and girls often outperform male counterparts academically, with an increasing number of women occupying various leadership roles in the public sector, private sector and civil society organisations. The number of females who are Board members is 29% for Public Boards and 16% for Private Boards.

A question is often asked on how much time and effort a person can realistically invest in this programme. What are your goals as a woman director? Do you want to be just a board member? Or do you plan on aiming higher to a chairperson position of a board? This programme helps you to choose.  It also aims to equip women participants with the required knowledge and skills on directorship, as well as empowering aspiring women applicants to complete the required application form for board director posts.

What are the entry requirements? Do you have all the knowledge and experience to do any of the necessary practical and technical work involved in becoming a director? The programme teaches participants on how to analyse the legal implications of the decisions they will make as Directors, and identifying elements of Strategic Planning and the process involved.  Participants are also taught on how to explain key sections of the Public Finance Management Act 2000, Public Bodies Act 2001 and the Companies Act 2001 and its relevance to the role of the Director. Other skills include analysing financial statements by knowing how to read a financial report, amongst many others.

“It is an ongoing challenge to improve and enhance the position of women at any national leadership level due to structural and cultural barriers hindering the effective participation of women, as well as the inaccessibility of training opportunities for women to learn skills to be Board Directors. This programme provides a level playing field for women from any background to aspire to be a Board Director in any organisation at the community, private and organisational level. The Institute of Directors credit the Women in Leadership in Samoa Project (WILS) for increasing the number of women who are now Board Directors. They have testified to being more confident in engaging and participating in their Director roles after being trained in the Programme,” said SIoD Director, Funemalafai Onosefulu Fuatai.

The recruitment of board members was opened in 2019 to all those eligible to apply. Out of the 257 applicants who had applied for board directors’ posts in 2019, 70 were women applicants, which is 27% of the total number who applied.  From that number, when the recruitment was done by the Ministry of Public Enterprises, 42 were successful in becoming directors, and 28 out of the 42 (66%) of current women directors were supported by the WILS Project.

The Institute, through this programme, also encourages women to apply for Boards in which women are less represented in such as the Samoa Tourism Authority, Samoa Trust Estates Corporation (women growers), Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (Agro Research), Samoa Shipping Corporation, Samoa Ports Authority, Samoa Shipping Services (with skills in shipping and freight), Development Bank of Samoa, Samoa International Finance Authority, Samoa Fire and Emergency Services Authority, Samoa Land Corporation, and the Electric Power Corporation.

Some of the Graduates from the Programme. PC: JM (UNDP/UNWomen-WILS)

The programme is facilitated by the Samoa Institute of Directors, and funded by the Women in Leadership in Samoa Project – a three-year joint project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, with funding from the Australian Government in partnership with the Government of Samoa.

 “UNDP, through the WILS Project, is committed to continue supporting this programme as it aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals of gender equality and diversity, reduced inequalities and inclusive growth. But we still have some way to go in boosting the number of women in directorship roles and eliminate gender inequalities. It is why targeted, gender-focused programmes like this course are critical in ensuring that all development efforts take into account the experiences, needs, and contributions of women as well as men,” said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Verena Linneweber.

Since 2018, the partnership of the WILS Project and the Samoa Institute of Directors, has supported programmes on directorship to be held every year to ensure more women are registered and are qualified to apply when a Call for Applications for directorship roles  goes out.




For media queries, please contact:

Jordanna Mareko, WILS Project Coordinator (Communications, Advocacy & Awareness) | UNDP Multi Country Office, Samoa | Tel. +685 23670 | E:

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