THE regional workshop for Pacific Parliaments in Nuku’alofa last week agreed that regional Parliaments Tonga included should be able to enact gender equality legislation or review existing laws so that they do not discriminate against women.

During the two day meeting the participants outlined several key issues of relevance to Pacific Island parliaments, including the gender equality issues. This is in support of democratic development in the Pacific region including Tonga.

On gender sensitive Parliaments’ discussion participants agreed to promote the community outreach strategies of parliaments to ensure all groups in society, men and women are able to voice their concerns to parliamentarians.

“Where no policies or legislation exist, women’s organizations could be encouraged to draft legislation for parliament to consider.”

Participants also voiced that awareness campaigns on the issue of gender equality is not only to encourage women to vote, but to empower women and build their confidence to run for parliament.

Papua New Guinea Vice Minister for Treasury Hon. Delilah Gore said in Africa more women are involved in politics thus making the Pacific region felt relatively small in comparison.

‘Pacific Island region is nowhere closer to match the number of women entering parliament in Africa. Pacific Island should come together and empower more women in Parliament. The perception that women can’t take leadership role, it’s a story of the past…I say we (women) can stand up to men,” maintained Hon. Gore.

Meanwhile New Zealand MP, Ms. Asenati Lole-Taylor noted that to empower women in politics, women should also vote for female candidates.

Samoa MP Cedric Toeolesulusulu maintained that the Pacific region Tonga included should use women in their roles.

He added the perception that culture hinders women’s involvement in politics can be seen in both positive and negative note.

MP Toeolesulusulu informed the gathering that Samoa had recently introduced five reserve seats for women for next general election.

Cook Island’s representative to the Nuku’alofa workshop, George Angene also shared the same insight.

“Cook Islands support women getting into politics for the love of the people and not for themselves,” said Mr. Angene.

The regional workshop also agreed that gender equality awareness campaigns could also be promoted through school programs to showcase women’s leadership abilities.

It was also suggested as solutions to the problem there’s need to formalize the relationship between parliament and women’s groups and non-government organizations.

“One option could be to appoint a liaison person to work with these groups,” according to the Outcomes Statement.

Another proposal put forward for media organizations to play active role in covering the work of women parliamentarians and the work done by parliaments on gender equality.

It also pushed for men to play a key role and participate in gender equality events such as International Women’s Day.

“Encouraging men to mentor women candidates and female parliamentarians and also to fostering cultural attitudes that accept women’s place in Parliament.”

The Nuku’alofa meeting was also told that momentum for change on gender equality in the region has already begun and parliamentarians have a responsibility to embrace it.

About 40 delegates from 13 countries together with the representatives of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) met in Nuku’alofa to discuss the evolving role of parliamentarians in a modern world.

The meeting was made possible through substantial financial assistance from AusAID, the IPU, UNDP and the Centre for Democratic Institutions.

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