Tongan women leaders meet for elections training
Thirty potential women candidates for Tonga's election in November have met in Nuku'alofa for a workshop on campaigning and leadership.
Thirty women who are potential candidates for Tonga's election in November have met in Nuku'alofa for training on campaigning and leadership.
A spokesperson for the United Nations Development Programme in Tonga, Mark Burton, says the workshop aims to equip the women with the the skills required to run for Parliament.
He told Mary Baines at least five women participating in the workshop have already decided to run in the election and will be strong contenders.
MARK BURTON: It's very much focussing on supporting women who are either already determined to be candidates in this year's general election or are considering it. Others are also contemplating standing for other electorate office in subsequent office for positions such as district officer or town officer positions. They are all from Tonga, not only from the main island of Tongatapu but also Vava'u and Ha'apai and the outlying islands. We thought it was very important to try and attract women participants in particular from all around the Kingdom. There are some pretty serious contenders here and women who are looking very seriously at running for political office. So it's an intensive learning experience, but one that for many is going to be the introduction to a serious political, if not career, certainly an attempt at a political career.
MARY BAINES: So what kind of training are they receiving?
MARK BURTON: They are dealing with the whole concept of transformational leadership, how to be an effective leader who inspires people. How to communicate, how to organise, the practicalities of organising a campaign. They are doing quite a lot of practical work, workshopping, as well as having presenters.
MARY BAINES: So with Tonga's election coming up in a few months then do you think this training will translate into higher participation rates?
MARK BURTON: It's early days. As you know there's only one woman in the Tongan parliament at the moment. It may not be quite that quick. But what we are quite confident already is that these activities during the course of this year have generated a great deal of interest in and awareness of the role that women can and should play in the parliamentary process and in the electoral process of Tonga. Women play a very active role in civil society here, and I think the leadership is not only coming from women, it's coming from some quite prominent men. The Speaker of the House, Lord Fakafanua, here has been a great advocate. I mean the point he makes very publicly and I think sums it up, Tonga is about 50 percent women, a House of Representatives should look the same. It's a journey and this is contributing to the development of the role of women in the political process.
MARY BAINES: Is it too early to say how many women are thinking about running in the elections?
MARK BURTON: We know of the 32, or the 30 women that are involved in this workshop, at least five are going to run. And of course there are potentially other women, other than the ones in the workshop. So we're looking at some pretty serious contenders, and some very strong candidates. But there's no doubt that this workshop and some of the activities leading up to it are generating a great deal of discussion, thinking, debate about the role that women can play effectively in the political processes of Tonga.
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