Pacific Media Watch

20 April 2013

REGION: Live blog: Pacific leaders want action on gender equality – but divided

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Pacific politics delegates in the parliamentary chamber in Wellington. Image: Michael Sergel/PMC

Michael Sergel and Finian Scott in Wellington

WELLINGTON (Pacific Scoop/ PMC Online / Pacific Media Watch): Pacific political leaders agree that action needs to be taken on gender equality in the region, although they disagree with the urgency of measures.

Delegates from 17 countries addressed the Pacific Parliamentary and Political Leaders Forum in Wellington on Friday.

For a Palauan politician, Senator Rukebai Kikuo Skey-Inabo, gradual change was not good enough.

“If women make up 50 percent or more of the population, they should make up 50 percent or more of the Parliament,” she told delegates in a strong delivery.

“Right now women appoint men to be chiefs. There should be more women in charge.”

She said regional measures could only go so far, and there needed to be broad commitment to the gender equality in Parliament.

Jovita Taimanao – the only woman in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Island’s upper house – says it is a challenge working alongside an entirely male team.

More women running
“I always keep an eye on them, to make sure they respect me and they respect women. It is very hard for women to get up there,” she told Pacific Scoop.

“I stated in my debate that I set up for more women in Parliament. Many women are interested and will be running in the next election.”

Cook Islands MP Selina Napa said any women’s rights initiatives in the Pacific would be a step forward.

“Every time we promote women to leadership positions, we inch closer to giving the world the balance it needs to prosper,” she told the forum.

“I would love to see more women walk into the House of Parliament.”

Vanuatu government minister Ralph Regenvanu told delegates that inequality was a post-colonial reality in his country, where women are not represented in Parliament.

“The patriarchy of Europe came to our lands. Women’s rights can’t come from the UN – it must come from cultural tradition. Women must be represented in Parliament.”

Substantial commitments
Delivering their speeches in French, New Caledonia local body politicians Valentine Eurisouke and Tiare le Goff told delegates that the country had made substantial commitments to women’s rights.

In particular, special regional polices had been in place since 1980 to promote political and social equality for women.

Delegates were considering the motion, “that steps be taken in all of our countries to lift the status of women in the Pacific and to empower them to be active participants in economic, political and social life – we should promote the equality of opportunity for all people in the Pacific region”.

The motion was put forward by Samoan high chief and cabinet minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

Michael Sergel and Finian Scott are Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student journalists at AUT University. They are covering the Pacific politics forum for Pacific Scoop and the Pacific Media Centre as an Asia-Pacific Journalism assignment.

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Pacific women political representation not good enough, says Fiame

Pacific leaders want action on gender equality – but divided on urgency

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More women in power is Fiji advocate’s recipe for no coups

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