Where are the women in our government? Senator Magdalena Walter shares her experience
18th March, 2015
By Senator Magdalena Walter December 31, 2014 Pohnpei, FSM
Last October, at the third FSM Women’s Conference, I was asked to share my experiences as the longest serving female senator, and until recently, the only woman in the Pohnpei State Legislator with the hope that it would inspire other women to take up leadership positions and participate in decision-making for our great nation. At this conference, I shared the challenges of campaigning, and running for office in the past three elections for Sokehs Municipality, as well as the challenges of the actual work that is done in the Legislature. Indeed, I tungoalenki kaping mwuledek ong tohnWein Sokehs Unsek.
In this article, I would like to build on my presentation and ask this question to both the men and women of the FSM: Why are we leaving all the decision-making to the men only of this country? This question is a very important one to ask when you consider the consequences of this for our future; for our children and our next generation. In the Pohnpei Legislature we have 21 male Senators, but currently only 2 female Senators. In the FSM National government the situation is worse: there are no female Senators; all are males. This imbalance matters a great deal to decision-making for our people. Political surveys show that male oriented decisions tend to prioritize foreign affairs, while female priorities tend to focus on the home, towards the care of our natural resources, education, and health. Both male and female perspectives are important and both are essential to the well being of our nation. But our country, our home, is currently being neglected. Our schools suffer from lagging education levels, our hospitals suffer from poor health outcomes, and our dwindling natural resources create economic insecurity that threatens the financial livelihoods for our families. We have for too long focused on the interests and advice of other countries. One way to change this is by having a more representative government. This strategy is a proven one; countries with the highest representation of women have the best development outcomes for their people.
The Pacific region has some of the lowest representations of women in government in the world. Comparatively, in the FSM, we have one of the greatest disparities in democratic representation. We are one of the few countries to have never had a woman participating in its National Congress. Of the 85 representative seats across the four state legislatures, there are only two women representatives; recently elected Senator Sendilina Lekka and myself in the State of Pohnpei. We often overlook the fact, that the interaction between men and women in decision-making creates a better procedural outcome. It is essential to both setting the national agenda and ensuring that the legislative process itself places the proper weight on decisions. This country is our home. Collectively, both men and women need to care for families, and this partnership requires a woman’s voice in the home, the hospitals, the board rooms, and on the senate floor, just as much as it needs men’s. But Senator Lekka and myself cannot do it alone. This is a call to other women across the FSM States to take part in the future direction of this country, but equally, it is an appeal for our men to embrace the importance of women’s presence in the decision making at all levels of government. We are all in this together. Let us begin, in this coming year, to make our government more representative. I wish everyone a blessed New Year.