THE Legislative Assembly of Tonga do believe in giving girls an opportunity to lead by putting them in the forefront of change efforts; hearing their voices; responding to their asks; and welcoming them in decision-making spaces.

The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Lord Fakafanua made the remarks when he officially opened the She Leads Fale Alea (SLF) 2022 today to coincide with the International Day of the Girl.

Lord Fakafanua says to date, young people often find themselves on the margins of the political process with poor representation or no representation at all, in most parliaments throughout the world including Tonga.

Speaker of Parliament, Lord Fakafanua officially launched She Leads Fale Alea 2022

The Speaker was 27 years of age when he became the Lord Speaker in 2012. In serving his third term as the Lord Speaker, he believes there is urgent need to enable and empower young people to engage in decision making so they and effectively take part in regular political decision-making in the national, regional and international level.

Lord Fakafanua said young people are rarely found in formal political leadership positions and they are not represented adequately in formal political institutions and processes such as Parliaments, political parties, elections, and public administrations.

According to UNDP, “the situation is even more difficult for young women. Engaging youth in parliament as young parliamentarians can provide important role models for politically interested youth. The increased presence of young elected leaders may in turn encourage more citizens to recognise young people as willing and able to lead – not just in the future, but now.”

He also advocated that giving young women these national decision-making spaces also gives them an incredible learning and networking opportunity. This includes expanding their networks to include MPs, Officials with Ministries, local government officers, international donor agencies, Diplomatic corps and so forth. Without these political platforms these networking opportunities that most youth would otherwise have no access to.

The Lord Speaker also asserted that by promoting these parliamentary initiatives, young people in Tonga have had an opportunity for increased personal and professional development. Through these, Parliament has witnessed a boost in their confidence, their visibility as well as giving their voices legitimacy and credibility, not only with their peers but with their communities. A majority of the participants are now actively involved in community activities that encourage civic education, civic participation as well as community development.

Lord Speaker with SLF 2022 and guests

Today, a Private Bill, a Motion for an Order and a Petition were submitted to the She Leads Fale Alea 2022. This includes a Private Bill on Building Control and Climate Change Resilience, Motion for an Order for a Temporary Special Measures for Reserved Seats in Parliament for women. And lastly on the House agenda was a Petition calling for the Decreasing of Voting Age from 21 to 18.

These agenda items were read and approved by Parliament and the Lord Speaker referred it to the Whole House Committee for discussions.

The SLF participants are still deliberating on the Climate Change Resilience Bill when it ends its session today at 4:00pm today.

This is the 5th Cohort of the She Leads Fale Alea event with about 30 girls participating in the event which will conclude this Friday.

The Legislative Assembly is in close partnership with Take the Lead in hosting the program in efforts to make Parliament more open and more inclusive. And part of that exercise is enabling youth-led initiatives such as Tonga Youth Parliament and facilitating annual She Leads Fale Alea event.

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