Women power :Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentarians Pacific Region Conference

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A three-day conference in New Zealand has vowed to increase women leaders in the Pacific region. The Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentarians Pacific Region Conference discussed gender equality in politics among other sectors of the society.  Held at the New Zealand, Parliament house in Wellington, 15 women Parliamentarians from across the Pacific spoke on issues faced by women in their region.

Samoa’s only women MPs, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and Gatoloa’ifaana Amataga Gidlow were among the participants. Co-chair, Jackie Blue says the meeting was very fruitful. The participants heard that more women MPs means there will be more focus on women’s rights and issues such as domestic violence, property ownership, maternal mortality, the right to education. The lack of women representation in most Parliaments is an injustice, she says. “A country cannot grow economically if it leaves half its citizens behind,” she says.

Encouraging Pacific women to support female parliamentary candidates, she says it is imperative that women are empowered at all levels. The highlight of the conference was the formation of a steering committee, chaired by Elizabeth Burain, Bougainville. Tangariki Reete, of Kiribati, is the Deputy Chair. Among the recommendations were countries with poor representation of women MPs need to review their electoral system and seriously consider temporary special measure of reserved seats.

The accepted target is to have 30 percent women MPs. The committee also recommends that the concern about low representation of women MPs in PICTs be raised as an issue at the forthcoming Pacific Leaders Forum later this year in Auckland and also at CHOGGM in Perth. They say the Pacific women MPs brief their PM and senior MPs who will be attending the Pacific Leaders Forum and CHOGGM about this issue and that a resource is developed for Pacific Women MPs to assist them with parliamentary processes. Voter education is vital and Women need to be educated regarding the political system and their right and responsibility, they recommended.

[Samoan Observer - Sallyshni Devi]