The head of Tonga’s Civil Society Forum says groups from around Tonga are gathering to celebrate the achievement. Siale ‘Ilohahia says 15 women stood in the election and all the candidates are getting together with the two MPs and their supporters, to reflect on what’s happened. She says the group aims to inspire girls into future politics.
“So we need to work with the young women to start getting them to this platform, start articulating how they could value their voting. At the same time inspire them by listening to how these women reflected, you know the successes, the challenges and how they are learning from this experience.”
But Tonga’s Women and Children’s Crisis Centre says while they are very happy the two women have been elected, they are disappointed only 14 per cent of the vote went to women. Team Leader, Lesila Lokotui Toia, says it may be time for reserved seats or quotas to get more women into parliament. Ms Toia says the centre has analysed the election results and the national vote for women was low with just over 5,500 votes for female candidates from a total count of just under 40,000.
“That’s only 14 per cent of all the votes. And then the 86 per cent all those votes went to male candidates. So we are looking forward if in the near future there would be legislation for a party system to assist female candidates.”
Siale ‘Ilohahia says even though women won just 14 percent of the vote, it is an improvement from the previous election where six percent of the vote went to women. She says the result represents progress.
“But if we really look at the context in terms of Tonga, how culturally representing our society to parliament has always been viewed as something that is only for men. And we are coming from a very hierachial society and the cultural perceptions is very much institutional in how voters think. That has been coming with us for so long”
Ms ‘Iloloahia acknowledges the fact that both elected women were part of the powerful Democratic Party, who won 14 out of 17 seats, also appears to be a factor in their success. The Crisis Centre’s Director Ofa Guttenbeil Likiliki says many of the women candidates placed second in their electorates. But she says last minute spending of constituency development funds favoured the incumbents as many voters believed they were spending their own money rather than realising it was allocated funding.
“Fourteen of the fifteen women, apart from ‘Akosita, did not have that advantage. So they had to go in competing against current members of parliament who had their constituency development fund at their disposal.”
Ms Guttenbeil Likiliki says while special measures and quotas are short term solutions for greater representation, the long term solution is education, as many children are still faced with gender stereotypes in the home.
SOURCE: Radio New Zealand