03rd February, 2014
A group of Pacific women parliamentarians, former parliamentarians, future parliamentarians, policy makers and civil society are meeting in Fiji to advance women’s political participation and leadership in the region.
The Pacific Islands have consistently produced the lowest number of women in governance in the world. In the Islands that comprise the Pacific Island Forum (without Aust and NZ), only 4.7% are women. If the 13 women elected in the 2006 Fiji election are not included, the figure drops even lower to 2.6% for the remaining Islands.
The 20 women from seven different Islands participating in the workshop organised by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) have come together to address the low levels of participation but also to share approaches to transformative leadership that prioritise consensus building, accountability and solidarity. “Adversarial models of government are one of the barriers to women’s participation” said Mere Samisoni. “Women can model different forms of Pacific leadership that are collaborative, democratic and accountable to our communities.”
This model of leadership is particularly critical in countries or communities where conflict and militarism have occurred. Countries recovering from long term conflict have often turned to women as leaders to offer a new form of leadership and to lead genuine commitments to development. But changing leadership models requires a larger cohort of women to have an impact.
“I was inspired by the way Fijian women leaders are working across party political divides in a spirit of collaboration and solidarity to secure a return to democracy” said former Papua New Guinea Member of Parliament, Dame Carol Kidu, a resource person for the training. Participants in the workshop include two of the three women elected in PNGs recent election, the first woman elected in the Cook Islands from the outer Islands, five Fijian women elected in the 2006 democratic elections and a number of women planning to contest future elections .
The participants also discussed the need to promote gender equality and human rights across all portfolios of government. “Right now the world faces a critical juncture. Rising and deepening inequalities of wealth and resources between countries and between rich and poor, combined with the fact that the world is now exceeding safe planetary boundaries require new forms of leadership and of development. Sustainable and equitable communities require the empowerment of all members of community and genuine democracy and accountability”, Anne Pakoa, first ever female Presidential candidate for Vanuatu. The participants will also hold a roundtable to discuss the post2015 development agenda with representatives of the Pacific Island Forum and UN agencies.
Given the small numbers of elected women in the Pacific, the participants have decided to establish a regional Pacific caucus or network to support ongoing dialogue and solidarity.