Head of Tonga Crisis Centre calls for women's quotas in parliament

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01 December 2010
At the polls on Thursday: surveys have shown women do not usually vote for other women candidates
At the polls on Thursday: surveys have shown women do not usually vote for other women candidates

None of the eleven women running for parliament were elected, but there is still a possibility of having a woman in the House.  “The Prime Minister has the choice of selecting up to four Cabinet members from outside, so we haven’t lost hope on that window of opportunity,” said women’s rights activist and head of the Women’s and Children’s Crisis Centre, ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki.

Out of the eleven who ran in the elections, only four – Fatai Vaihu (478), ‘Alisi Taumoepeau (306), Mavaetangi Manavahetau (240) and Betty Blake (103) – received more than a hundred individual votes at the polls.  Vaihu and Taumoepeau were most successful, both coming in third in their respective constituencies.

“There are reasons the numbers are low, which have to do with cultural barriers and the myth that women can’t lead,” said Guttenbeil-Likiliki, adding that a survey she conducted in the 2005 general elections showed that most women did not vote for their female candidates.  Traditionally, Tongan politics have been male-dominated. Since 1875, only four women have ever been elected as People’s Representatives and two were appointed as Cabinet ministers, including current Information Minister ‘Eseta Fusitu’a.

Women cannot inherit noble titles.  “We have told everyone that our new government is a democracy, but we say that it’s not a full democracy until women have representation in parliament,” said Guttenbeil-Likiliki.

She called for a quota system to be put in place that will reserve a number of parliamentary seats specifically for women.  Meanwhile, Friendly Island Democratic Party leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva said women have to support their own if they wish to see a female MP.  “We have more women on the electoral roll than men . . . it’s not a problem for women to select a woman. The provision in our constitution [is that] everybody is the same in the face of the law.

If female people in this country value or feel it is about time for a woman to become a representative they could easily do it, no problem,” said Pohiva.

[Taimi Media Network, Josephine Latu]

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