Tonga looks to address gender imbalance in parliament
Tonga launches 'practice parliament' in efforts to boost number of women in politics.
Tonga is launching a mock parliament for women, in efforts to encourage more women to enter politics to address the current gender imbalance.
Tonga only has one woman in parliament, who was appointed by the prime minister and is not an elected member of parliament.
The Speaker of Parliament, Lord Fakafanua, told Amelia Langford the practice parliament will take place in April for two days and he is encouraging women to apply.
LORD FAKAFANUA: The practice parliament is basically designed to encourage and empower women so that they can be more involved in parliament. The idea came from women being underrepresented in our parliament. In the past 100 years of the history of parliament in Tonga, there has only been seven women and we figure that since women represent 50 percent of the population there is an injustice there. In terms of the law and the system, there are no institutional barriers for women to enter politics, so the issue is a social one and we hope that practice parliaments like this will help expose the issue and encourage both women and men to vote for women in the next election.
AMELIA LANGFORD: Indeed. Tell me about that social issue - is it a matter of culture and attitudes - what is the problem there?
LF: I would not say it is a problem. It is probably years of culture. Politics and government have been dominated by men and even among women they feel strongly that this is the domain of men and I believe with the advent of democracy and education women need to be more involved in politics. It is an attitudinal change and hopefully by encouraging women to participate and having women realise that women are capable of being political leaders, we will have some social change in the future.
AL: And tell me how this practice parliament, or mock parliament, will work.
LF: So, we have launched a public awareness programme and that involves television programmes, we'll be on radio programmes, we'll have talkback shows and there will be a working committee going to community centres around all the islands encouraging women to apply. These candidates will then write in and we will select 30 of them, two of which are reserved seats for disabled women and also one for the women youth. These candidates will then participate in a parliament, just like a real parliament, they will elect among themselves a prime minister, there will be a woman speaker, a woman deputy speaker, a woman deputy prime minister and the agenda will be just as if it was a real parliament with bills and standing orders, and rules and procedures, and petitions - everything just like a real parliament.
Lord Fakafanua says it will be refreshing to hear the opinions of women in parliament.
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