Leading the way in the Solomon Islands’ COVID-19 response: WLI alumna Emma Sipele

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020 - 13:10
  • Australia Awards
  • Australia
  • Solomon Islands

Australia Awards Women's Leadership Initiative alumna Emma Sipele is leading the way in the Inland Revenue Division’s response to COVID-19 in the Solomon Islands.

As soon as the pandemic was declared by WHO, Emma Sipele in her role as Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Operations at Solomon Islands' Tax Office (Inland Revenue Division), initiated an internal COVID-19 working group. The working group was established to put in place precautionary measures during official duties, and in the case of an outbreak in the country.

So far, the working group has rolled out a number of practical measures, such as establishing a customer service waiting area and meeting rooms to control and minimise the influx of customers within the office building; provided facilities and equipment for employee and customer sanitising; and increased the level of cleaning in all common areas. They have also been responsible for providing regular updates and information to all division employees.

In response to her leadership role during COVID-19, Emma says that the "Women's Leadership Initiative has equipped me with the knowledge, tools and confidence to take the lead in such situations."

As with all leadership positions, it has come with challenges, as well as opportunities. Emma reports that getting all employees on board has been trickier than she imagined, something she attributes to the lack of any confirmed cases in Solomon Islands. Ensuring a full understanding of the new processes across the agency has also been challenging, but Emma asserts that this has been a great opportunity to "revisit how we have been doing things and ask questions about why, and then improving the processes."

Tapping into her networking skills has also been a positive of the pandemic response for Emma, and something she attributes to her Women's Leadership Initiative experience. She has been working with team members' extended networks also, particularly within the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to get accurate information and to organise training sessions, noting that, "it would usually take some time or not happen at all, if we do not use our connections." 

So, while COVID-19 is something no-one would wish for, it has enabled emerging leaders like Emma to step up and put their leadership skills to the test. “I always refer back to my toolkit of [Women’s Leadership Initiative] resources whenever I am in doubt or need the confidence” says Emma, [and] am grateful to be part of this amazing network."

To find out more about Australia Awards Women's Leadership Initiative, visit the website.