Tonga Youth Leaders lead the first Girls Takeover Parliament initiative

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02nd November, 2018

The Girls Takeover Parliament initiative has reached Tongan shores, with the Tonga Youth Leaders in collaboration with Jasiri Australia, Commonwealth Youth Council, and Parliament, hosting the first Girls Takeover Parliament today.
The programs for the Girls Takeover Parliament allows the 26 young women and girls who were selected as members of parliament, the opportunity to experience and voice their perspectives on matters of national interest in a parliament setting.

‘Aulola ‘Ake from Tonga Youth Leaders, says this is an important initiative in developing the leadership skills of the youth, particularly the girls.

“It’s about empowering young girls to decision making roles and so it’s about creating safe spaces as it was for International Youth Day this year, which the theme was – safe spaces for youth. So by creating this event and by adopting this event here in Tonga, we are promoting young girls to leadership positions, encouraging them to that particular area. At the same time, we are also creating a sense of safe spaces here in Parliament, that this is a safe space for young people, as our Pacific Representative for the Commonwealth Youth Council – Elizabeth Kite mentioned, that this was a space where young girls voices matter as well.”

This Girls Takeover Parliament program highlights the need to empower the women of the country for their voice to be heard in Parliament, but the discussions would also be focusing on important issues to the nation such as the environment, and cyberspace issues.

“So we’ve used the theme for International Youth Day, which is – safe spaces for youth, but the two main important issues that will be debated in their 1-hour Parliament session, the first is on single-use plastics, and whether they should be banned or lessened here in Tonga, so they will be put forward as motions for the girls to discuss and debate on. The second one is looking at cyberbullying which has been a very important topic here in the past few months, in Tonga. We’re looking at cyberbulling in terms of how can we make the internet – or online – safe spaces for young girls.”

‘Ake says it is encouraging for Tonga Youth Leaders to host this program and witness the young women and girls who have stepped forward applying for the Girls Takeover Parliament, and they hope this would be a good opportunity for them to take interest in the political discussions.

“I think it will be a good opportunity for young girls really, in terms of political participation. We are not touching on anything that is politically sensitive, or anything that is controversial, this is an aim at good leadership really and it has also been part of our Youth Politics programs. This one day event is something that has also been welcomed by Parliament of Tonga, and our chief clerk – Gloria Pole’o and her staff, have been very encouraging of such programs, so we feel that in the lead up to the Tonga Youth Parliament, this has been a wonderful chance for us, as young girls to come in and have a little bit of a debate, but also enjoy their time here and get to meet, leaders, members of Parliament, and also just meet the staff who are here, who work tirelessly behind the scenes, to making sure that our decision making body here in Tonga stays legitimate at all times.”

“It’s about engaging young people in civic education and it’s really a discussion of good leadership skills, it’s a discussion of facts vs opinions, and it’s also a discussion about Fale Alea ‘o Tonga. This is sort of created a momentum for us in the past few months, so that we could encourage young girls to apply, not just for Girls Takeover Parliament Day, but also in the coming weeks, we are looking forward to Tonga Youth Parliament, where young women and also young men here in Tonga have applied and are participating in.”

“I think I look forward to hearing from these young girls. These applicants and young girls that we’ve invited all come from diverse backgrounds, they’re coming from schools, they’re coming from volunteer groups, they’re coming from church groups. It will be wonderful to hear what they think is important, what they feel about the debate topics, and what they believe should be priority in terms of national discussion.”

One of the participants – Mele Fonua – the Vava’u 15 people’s representative, believes this initiave is an important platform for girls to have their voices heard, and Fonua hopes she would be an example to others in joining the program.

The programme encourages and enables young women to pursue leadership positions and opens up organisations to fresh perspectives.

Source: © Radio and Television Tonga News


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