21 Feb 2005

Three Bougainville parliamentary seats reserved for women candidates

11:34 am on 21 February 2005

A women's rights group on the Papua New Guines island of Bougainville says the upcoming election will finally give women a chance to have their say in parliament.

In a precedent-setting move, the constitution of Bougainville, passed by the national parliament last year, allows for three regional seats to be contested exclusively by women.

Helen Hakena of the Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency, says this is an opportunity to participate in key decisions effecting women.

"Women have been involved in the peace process for a long time and by giving women a chance to lead and speak out about their issues, that's really good. So we've got three seats for south, central and north Bougainville that women alone will contest. This does not stop other women from contesting other constitutencies as seats."

Helen Hakena says female politicians are likely to lobby for law changes regarding violence against women and the protection of children.

Bougainvilleans are expected to go to the polls on May 20th.