Pacific speakers mull barriers facing female candidates

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01st August, 2013

Speakers from Pacific Island nations discussed the barriers facing female political hopefuls in the region while at a conference in Canberra.

The recent 44th Presiding Officers and Clerks Conference saw representatives from Australia and the Pacific gather for the week-long conference, which focuses on developments in parliamentary administration and procedure.

The Pacific has the lowest representation of women in parliament of any region in the world at under 5 per cent, but views on the best ways to lift numbers vary from nation to nation.

In Papua New Guinea’s most recent general election three women secured seats in its parliament.

Speaker Theodore Zurenuoc said he does not support special measures such as reserved seats to ensure more women are elected.

“I believe as a young democracy we should be allowed to evolve and as we mature as a democracy more women will be voted into parliament,” he said.

“Because if women are given an easy access to parliament they will be regarded in my view as second class members of parliament and people don’t want that to happen.”

However, Cook Islands Speaker Niki Rattle says more must be done to remove cultural and institutional roadblocks to ensure progress is made on female representation in Pacific politics.

“While the willingness is there for women to stand and become members of the parliament, the community on the other hand hasn’t changed that culture,” she said.

“So when election time comes that means still in their minds, men are still the best people for the job.

“We need a different strategy, we need to look at a different way of giving women that opportunity to then prove themselves.”

In June the Samoan parliament passed a law that guarantees five seats out of its 49 are reserved for female candidates – a move Ms Rattle supports.
“It is difficult to introduce changes but I do believe it is the right time to do it,” she said.

The only other parliament in the Pacific region that has adopted temporary special measures is the autonomous region of Bougainville, which has three reserved seats for women. – See more at:

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