Cook Islands Speaker wants Pacific Parliaments to address gender issues

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07th July, 2014

Hon. Nikki Rattle, Speaker of Cook Islands Parliament. (Photo: PWPP/DFAT)

Pacific Parliaments should address gender issues and should take the lead in not only encouraging women to become parliamentarians but to integrate local culture into their parliamentary systems.

This was a view of Cook Island’s Parliamentary Speaker, Honorable Nikki Rattle when she addressed the delegations of the 45th Presiding Officers & Clerk Conference (POCC) members in Samoa’s Parliament today.

The only woman Speaker, she was the first presenter and emphasized the need for women to have a voice in politics.

The Pacific has the lowest number of women representation in Parliament anywhere in the world said Speaker Rattle and unless Parliament stands up to lead, there will never be any positive changes.

“Gender should include both men and women,” said Speaker Rattle.

She said although there are many disparities or gaps between men and women, there should be an equal balance of gender representatives in Parliament.

“Government need to do something about it by introducing changes,” said Speaker Rattle.

Despite the changes seen in some Pacific islands over women issues, “women are still not getting the same opportunities as men,” she said.

She acknowledges the move by Samoa and other islands in reserving special seats for women parliamentarians but she would rather see women elected on their own merits.

“A child is labeled by his/her sex as soon as they are born,” she said.

Speaker Rattle said gender and sex are exactly the same and the division of what men and women do is noted from the day the child is born.

“There is the division of issues pertaining to both genders,” she said.

“In politics, Parliament is the child with “women representing the feminine side and men the stronger side,” said Rattle.

“They come together as equal Members of Parliament to nurture the need of a country.”

Speaker Rattle believes that sometimes, the lack of women representation is due to the “unwillingness” of women in taking up politics.

This is where Parliamentarians plays a very influential role through training those interested in politics.

“Share their political knowledge with the people and mainstream it,” said Speaker Rattle.

On the cultural side, Speaker Rattle strongly believes that Parliaments are still too much into the Westminister system.

“Our culture should be integrated and co-exist with whatever Parliamentary system we have,” she said.

“In Cook Island, flowers represent many things in culture and it is tradition to wear a flower garland (Pale) to almost every occasion, except in Parliament.

“Women are not also allowed to wear trousers in parliament, unless it’s an appropriate suite,” she explains.

The exchange of view continues in the four day long conference that’s includes a tour around the island.


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