This research project offered the Balance of Power (BOP) program an opportunity to work with the University of the South Pacific (USP) – an institution long considered one of the key pillars of Pacific regionalism – and its Student Association (USPSA). USP is considered a melting pot of the region’s next generation of leaders. This is where lifelong relationships, networks and coalitions are built. Right across
the region, USP alumni are represented in decision-making organisations, both public and private. This research project therefore represented an opportunity to engage the next generation of leaders, particularly important considering recent regional discussions around the question, ‘What is the Pacific that we want for tomorrow’?
This research was undertaken in partnership with members of USPSA who well represent the voice of youth leaders in the region. USPSA members are expected to take on a leadership role, as indicated in the mission statement that ‘students play an integral role in the strategic direction of the USP at all levels to enhance campus life and academic experience’ (USPSA Website). For BOP, as a program, the outcomes of the research will be important to help shape and guide future engagements with young people, including with, but also beyond, the USPSA. This research served as a catalyst to broaden and deepen these emerging leaders’ understanding of the issue of women’s leadership and the need for that leadership to be seen as legitimate. By participating in an exploration of attitudes and perceptions around the legitimacy and voice of women leaders, students were encouraged to engage more intentionally on this issue, potentially opening up further opportunities for advocacy, as informed by the research findings.