Pacific countries still low for gender equality in politics
More work needs to be done post-elections in the Pacific to ensure Pacific countries do not remain at the bottom globally for gender equality in politics.
The Fiji Women's Forum says more work needs to be done in the Pacific to boost the participation of women in politics and ensure long-term gender parity.
The United Nations has released its Women in Politics Map 2014, which says Micronesia, Palau and Vanuatu are the lowest ranked, without a single woman parliamentarian.
And it says of the 13 countries with less than five percent female representation, five are in the Pacific region - the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Tonga and Samoa.
The head of Femlink Pacific, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, told Mary Baines the UN's estimation that gender equality in politics globally could be reached in 20 years will not happen in the Pacific if hard work doesn't start now.
SHARON BHAGWAN ROLLS: Although we have seen in the last year Samoa in particular putting in constitutional reform processes to at least make a commitment to 10 percent, but the reality is that politically women are not in the types of elected positions we would like to see, whether in national parliament or in local government, you know, municipal councils as well, in Pacific Island countries.
MARY BAINES: With the elections coming up in Fiji and the Solomon Islands, are there hopes that more women will stand?
SBR: Most definitely. There's a lot of work going on to train women, but I think that we need to see a sustained support for enhancing women's political participation. We got some very good numbers in the 90s, for example, in Fiji, but then you sort of see that women in politics programmes would kind of fizzle out after elections. It has to be sustained. It needs to go from one election cycle to the other. And it also needs to be looking not just at national politics but where women are probably closer to development planning in provincial councils in local government. Vanuatu, for example, has introduced affirmative action for local government. So we're looking at ways I think across the Pacific to see how can we support women to get elected, but also the support that's needed for women to rise in leadership within political parties as well.
MB: The UN's research shows that the number of women parliamentarians are at a record 21.8 percent globally. But would you say this increase is a true reflection of what's happening in the Pacific?
SBR: In the sense of the increase in numbers, you know globally that 21 percent, I don't think we're doing that well at all. We just have a very long way to go. The good thing is that there is the political will to support it, and support women in politics, but what it also needs is sustained resourcing, particularly from within women's civil societies, and that kind of work not just in building the capacity of women's political leadership but also to look at how political parties can be more engaged and supporting women's leadership as well.
MB: And they've also said that gender parity could be sustained in 20 years. Do you think this is a reality for the Pacific?
SBR: To say 20 years, that's two decades away. I don't think we have time. I think we really need to work a lot smarter and a lot faster to ensure there is gender parity in politics. There's no point in having indicators or commitments in the 2015 agenda and then wait for it to get rolled out. I mean, this should be a reality now. To wait for another 20 years means that for another 20 years the women of the Pacific will still be behind in political decision-making.
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