Former Bougainville woman MP says "PNG women can win without reserved seats"


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23 March 2012

One of the first women to have contested and won an exclusive women’s seat in a representative assembly in the country says the reality is far from the negative debate emerging. Francesca Semoso, who has the unique experience of having contested both a reserved seat and an ordinary open seat, said the pressure, the hardships and the joys of the campaign trail were no different.

Semoso won the North Bougainville reserved seat in the first Autonomous Region of Bougainville election in 2005. After a term, she contested in an open seat and lost. Bougainville has, grafted onto its 2004 Constitution, three seats reserved for women for North, Central and South regions. In 2005 the seats were won by Semoso (North), Magdalene Toroansi (Central) and Laura Amba (South). “The argument that women will vote for women is not true,” Semoso said. “More men than women voted for me.

“The argument that colleagues will treat women who win reserved seats with less respect is wrong. When we went to the elections, we walked, talked, cried and sang like every other candidate. It cost us money. We went through the same hard times. “We campaigned in the same way as all other candidates. When they see that they respect you, they know you are as good as them.” Semoso went on to win the deputy speaker’s post in the assembly – again with the majority support from male representatives.

“Never in my five years did I get any disrespect because I was a reserved seat contestant. I was voted deputy speaker of the House of Representatives of 40. “Reserved seats made a big difference. “Women are honest when it comes to things that we know will destroy people’s lives. “Honestly speaking the PNG parliament needs the presence of women MPs. Political parties should support women candidates.”

She told aspiring women candidates: “Reserved seats or no reserved seats, you can still win an election if you know your strengths. You can never be a man. You have to go the people as a woman and a leader. That is what the people are looking for. Let them say all the good things about you, the bad things about you. Then they will know you can weather the storm as well as any man.”...

[The National - via PACNEWS-PINA]

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