Suva, Fiji, 16 March 2021 – Dr. Jennifer Clarke is a UK-trained academician, practitioner, and researcher of development administration with over 20 years of practical experience in institutional strengthening and capacity building. She is currently the head of Nauru Customs Service and is one of the three female heads of Customs in OCO membership of 23.
Jennifer was awarded her Ph.D. in International Development by the University of Birmingham, U.K., and completed her Masters in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management at the London School of Economics, U.K. Main areas of focus during her doctoral study included Governance, Public Policy, Project Finance, and Economic Analysis, and the Political Economy of Poverty Reduction and Development.
Before joining Nauru Customs, Jennifer has worked in both developed and developing countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and the Americas on projects funded by international donors (World Bank, the European Union, the U.K. Department for International Development, AusAid, and the Inter-American Development Bank), focusing on governance and anti-corruption, public financial management, public sector modernization, customs reform and modernization, and trade enhancement for enabling business environments.
On such projects, she served in the roles of Chief Technical Adviser, Team Leader, Capacity Development Specialist; Change Management Adviser; as well as Associate Professor.
“I am an avid self-starter and I am a committed, resourceful and flexible individual. I have a very meticulous and methodological approach to my work,” she says.
Jennifer has served in long-term technical advisory roles to various Customs administrations in Latin America and the Caribbean and also Africa. The opportunity to serve in an ‘in-line’ role with more authority and responsibility for decision making and the ability this afforded for fuller control over the achievement of results was part of the reason which prompted her to apply for the Deputy Secretary position. Working with the Nauru Customs Service, she says, has been a rewarding experience. She has had the opportunity to work with a young team of open-minded individuals that are willing to embrace reforms and to implement the type of both incremental and large-scale transformational changes needed for a more modern, responsive Customs Service.
Outside of the work environment, Jennifer is involved in humanitarian work and is currently working towards the establishment of a foundation in Barbados for gifted and talented children from underprivileged backgrounds, focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education for the achievement of SDGs. She is also working in Nauru on an initiative focusing on women in trade and women’s economic empowerment.
As a female Consultant who has worked in a number of foreign jurisdictions with differing cultural views, Jennifer cites one main and ongoing challenge as the issue of gender equality.
“It is not enough for women to just have a seat at the table; the real issue is for their voices to be heard,” she says. “Certain behaviors, certain statements, sometimes even omissions to act in certain situations send strong signals of people’s thought processes. Overcoming such a challenge involves having confidence, being able to well articulate one’s position, and equally important keeping abreast and well informed of the latest developments in thinking on various issues, in particular those relating to one’s operating environment.”
She says maintaining a steady composure in the face of lack of appreciation of diversity and the contributions which women are capable of making, not only augers well for one’s personal wellbeing, it also allows one to demonstrate behaviors that can be role modeled by emerging female leaders.
‘Placing God at the center, my Christian values, upbringing, and a strong family support network back in Barbados makes it easier for me to thrive living alone in Nauru, and to maintain the type of focus needed to effectively contribute to the development of similar small island nations,” she says.
The COVID-19 pandemic, in Jennifer’s view, has dramatically altered the way in which people think and work, both individually, and as a collective.
“The pandemic has brought even more starkly to the fore the need for more joined-up government by government agencies working together in the fight against the coronavirus; as well as the need for Customs to work with counterpart border agencies to devise strategies so as to realize a more coordinated approach to the management of increasingly porous borders.”
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Our Gender Program: In 2019, the OCO held its inaugural Change Management on Gender Equality workshop, which suggested there should be gender equality in all aspects of OCO’s work program. This suggestion was endorsed at the 2020 OCO Annual Conference. In 2020, OCO member countries were encouraged to celebrate International Women’s Day in their own administrations and to share their activities widely. This year, OCO is dedicating the month of March to our women. The Pacific Women in Customs Series is a collection of stories of women who are working in Customs in their various countries and we hope to inspire more women to join this field of work.