'Women’s political stride towards change'

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While no women managed to secure a seat in the national election and again in the provincial election, this does not represent a failure on the women part as the high number of women contesting recent elections has set a record for the country.

In the national election there were 17 women and in the provincial elections of Penama, Malampa, Shefa and Tafea 8 women contested.

This is a political achievement for the women of Vanuatu compared to the number of women contestants the past.

It is very difficult for women’s participation in politics with the current system but Vanuatu women are much more confident now than before.
Competing with men in politics is a very challenging race because it is not easy as some perceived by most men or women.

The two election results with no women candidates or councilors elected has brought mixed reactions from the public, women, political parties, Vanuatu Government, national women's organisations and donors.

On the positive side it has strengthened the key women leaders to continue with the momentum to strategize as a way forward. All women’s program in Vanuatu need to be redirected, refocused. All these negative impacts should be a determining force for all women to unite and work together with the stakeholders to strategize for the future elections leading up to 2016 and beyond.

Vanuatu, compared with the countries in the region, has fallen behind the rest of the world with the lowest levels of representation of women in parliaments and local governments/provincial government of nine countries in the world with no women elected or appointed to sit in Parliament.

Statistics and reports have indicated that no substantial advances have been made in women’s political representation in the Pacific region over the last decade.

What are we doing about it? Running the same gender programs? Who are we serving the national interest or personal interest? We want programs to be conducted that have impact on the livelihood of women of this nation.

Majority of the key women leaders see a way forward to have women representatives in the parliament and in the provincial and municipalities is to have a temporary special measure/quota system that is a priority for the next four years to encourage women to walk the talk with the men in our high decision-making institutions. Another prioritized area in all the women’s and gender programs need to be redirected and refocus as in the past programs was the focus on consultation, workshops, trainings and meetings. “Women Economy Empowerment” is the way forward for every women from urban to rural, to change the mindset of the people to vote for women.

Failing is part of every success.
Vibrant women never stop trying, they recover from setbacks. They do not need to see setbacks as failures.

Vanuatu is a democratic nation and no one can stop the rights of individuals, men, women and youth in terms of who to vote for.

There are women activists who are paid to do their job but at the end of the day, have conflict of interest instead of serving the national interest. This is contradicting the value of women. Conflicts such as wearing too many hats, qualification, political and personal issues, no cooperation and not focusing on advancing women’s development issues to the next level higher.

Speaking to key public members about the controversial issue the feedback is; “We do need to have the right women leaders in the key senior positions of women’s offices in Vanuatu to advance women’s work for this nation. If the women want and work for a change in the future we should have the right women or men in the women’s offices in the women’s national machineries. Vanuatu needs women leaders that have the same vision for women, live and walk the talk of women and not those who dream dreams or just doing the job for survival purposes.”

Women champions need to be congratulated for their tireless continuous contribution in recognising the value of women in political leadership.
Men in particular did an excellent job in soliciting support for women in the past two elections.

These men have been sincerely saluted, appreciated and acknowledged for holding hands together with the women to be where they are today.

- By Letty W. Kaltonga, March 15, 2013, Vanuatu Daily Post