PNG Editorial: “Women – power on the rise”

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06th August, 2012

PORT MORERSBY (THE NATIONAL) — Some kind of history could be made when the complete set of newly-elected parliamentarians sit later this month in Waigani. Papua New Guinea’s 2012 general election will be notable for the fact that this is the first time in 35 years two female candidates have won seats in the country’s legislature while a third is on the verge of victory.Loujaya Toni (Lae open), Delilah Gore (Sohe open) have been declared and now Julie Soso, contesting the Eastern Highlands regional seat, could form a triumvirate of women in the national parliament.

Soso, in particular, is set to become the country’s first ever female governor of a province. That is quite an achievement when you consider that for the past 37 years of political independence this nation has never had more than two women MPs at any given time.

South Fly’s Clowes Wali¬yato and Manus’ Nahau Rooney won their seats in the first post-independence elections in 1977, while the longest-serving was Dame Carol Kidu, who recently retired from politics after three consecutive terms (1997-2012).

But even before them was Dame Josephine Abaijah, who was elected to the House of Assembly in 1972 representing the National Capital District before coming back for a term in 1987, this time as the provincial member for her native Milne Bay province (this was before the provincial government reforms thus Dame Josephine was not a governor).

It is fair to say that women’s input into nation-building has not always taken the more illustrious path of political and state representation; that has always been the domain of men.

But things could be changing; one can sense a slight but significant shift in the scales as PNG women are being seen as genuine leaders in their own right.

Perhaps, the people too are tired of the many empty promises of past members and want a change in every sense of the word.

What adds weight to the argument that the tide could be turning in the cause of greater and wider representation of women is that in this national election, beside the huge number of candidates that nominated, there were a good number of women putting their hands up as well.

And Soso is poised to become not just the first female governor but the leader of a highlands province.
She leads the count with 90,630 preferences, more than 8,000 ahead of the next candidate. That would have been unheard of in previous elections.

It could become a reality today. Three may not sound like a big deal but depending on their performance over the next five years and the effect, if any, they have on parliament; we could see the percentage of women taking up seats in the house rise from the current 2.7%.

Of course, we are still a long way from the ideal which would see more wo¬men contesting in elections and, more importantly, be seen in the eyes as equally capable and qualified to lead. hree women in parliament is great start and could usher in a more liberal approach to government.

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