Tonga’s first Practice Parliament for Women is a crucial milestone and marks a very positive step forward for Tonga, said Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho in opening the event today, April 7, in Nuku’alofa at the Faonelua Convention Centre.
This was “a historical day for the people of Tonga but in particular a joyous day for women,” the Queen told 30-women representatives, who were selected to take part in the two-day practice sitting on April 10-11,
The Queen said that over the past three-decades there had been slow process in increasing women’s participation at the highest level of national decision-making, with only seven women becoming members of the Legislative Assembly.
“I thank the Speaker for supporting this great initiative for women to speak in our parliament. Whilst I can say confidently that Tongan women have long been at the forefront of our homes, workplaces, churches and our communities, it is unfortunate that the number of women who have become People’s Representatives has remained minimal,” she said.
Queen Nanasipau’u had no doubt that this Practice Parliament would encourage women who aspired to be political leaders to step up with confidence.
“This is an opportunity for women to raise their profile and expose their unique skills and experience on a national level.
“Being a leader is not an easy task and as many female public leaders may attest, it can also seem like an uphill struggle at times, but in saying so, the opportunity to lead people in any capacity is a tremendous privilege and responsibility. You have been selected because you have the potential to make a positive difference for those less fortunate, you can give your voice to the voiceless and be at the forefront of initiating change for the better.”
The Queen said she was very impressed with the combination of women representatives to this Practice Parliament. “I am confident that the bills, motions and petitions that you will debate will be in the public’s best interests.”
She said the Practice Parliament would also showcase our parliamentary institution, its aspirations for a more inclusive and democratic government, as well as its respect for free speech and the rights of the marginalized and the minority. “It also sends a strong message that Tonga wishes to aspire broad tolerance in thought and expression – all this we consider to be a precious part of our part of life and outlook.
“I do look forward to follow your progress of this Practice Parliament and its outcomes. I will also be very happy to follow your progress should any of you run in the upcoming General Election in November.”
The 30-women representatives with Lady ‘Eseta Fusitu’a as Speaker, consists of nine “noble’s representatives”, 17 “people’s representatives” and two representatives elected by the Prime Minister from outside. In addition, there are two reserved seats for youth and disability groups.
The representatives are currently undergoing a three-day orientation program of training in parliament works and protocol, legislative matters and effective campaigning, among other issues.
On the agenda for the two-day sitting is the Order in Public Places Amendment Bill 2014, three motions on Youth Justice and Youth Diversion program, a temporary quota system for women in parliament, and establishing local and overseas market for women’s handicrafts, which will be debated on at Parliament House.
Matangi Tonga Magazine
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