19 Apr 2013

Pacific MPs debate gender equality in region

9:46 pm on 19 April 2013

MPs from the Pacific have begun a two-day debate in the New Zealand Parliament about the importance of having more women in Parliaments around the region.

Only rarely do politicians other than New Zealand MPs address the House, but on Friday and Saturday the Debating Chamber will be given over to the Pacific politicians to discuss issues ranging from gender quality to the role of the media.

The debate is part of the Pacific Parliament and Political Leaders' forum, arranged by the Foreign Affairs select committee.

Samoa's Minister of Justice Fiame Naomi Mata'afa told the House on Friday that excluding New Zealand, Australia and the French territories, women in the Pacific make up only 4% of elected representatives - the lowest in the world.

Ms Mata'afa said often the level of female representation reflects progress in the broader society, using pre-coup Fiji as an example.

"Prior to the 2007 coup in Fiji, Fiji in fact had the highest levels of participation by women in the lower house and Senate.

"If we look at the case of Fiji, we can say that Fiji had a level of economic development, a level of social progress."