Australia’s women’s envoy tours Pacific to boost political participation

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20th July, 2014

(Photo Credit: Australia Network News)

Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls says Australia can help Pacific nations improve poor levels of female leadership.

Natasha Stott-Despoja is the head of an Australian delegation to Tonga to meet about 30 women in politics from around the region.

“This is a great opportunity to get together those women who are in positions of power, those women who are aspiring to be candidates or high level public servants, (to) talk about strategies for success, talk about the differences and the difficulties that we face,” Ms Stott-Despoja told Pacific Beat.

Female representation in Pacific parliaments is around five per cent compared to the global average of almost 22 per cent.

Ambassador Stott-Despoja says while female parliamentary representation in Australia is only 33 per cent, Australian women can share a number of success stories.

“We can (also) point out some of the difficulties and obstacles to attaining political office. I am proud to be leading a delegation that includes a cross-party group of female politicians as well as women from different jurisdictions,” the former senator said.

She says there’s “an extraordinary talent pool” of women in the Pacific.

“I’ve worked with some of those women already, whether it’s in multilateral fora like the United Nations or whether it’s been visiting the domestic violence, family violence and sexual assault clinics and units that are run in places like Vanuatu, PNG. And I’ll be doing some work in Tonga over the next couple of days looking at some of the services that (Australia) support(s) to try and prevent violence against women and their children,” she said.

Ambassador Stott-Despoja will be meeting with women running in Fiji’s September election, and says the poll will provide a “wonderful opportunity” for greater female participation in Fiji’s parliament.

“The exciting thing about Fiji is, as I understand, all five political parties who are contesting high office have appointed female presidents,” she said.

Source: Australia Network News

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