FOR the first time in 25 years, no female will make up the 111-member Parliament, despite more women contesting the 2017 general election than ever before (167 of the 3332 candidates).
In 2012, three women were elected including one as governor. They were Eastern Highlands Governor Julie Soso, Sohe MP Delilah Gore and Lae MP Loujaya Kouza. The latter two held ministerial positions.
This year, all three lost their seats.
Since independence, only seven women were elected to Parliament in PNG.
In hindsight, it may have made a difference if the Equality and Participation Bill (or the Women’s Bill, as it was widely known) was passed in 2012 to reserve 22 seats for women. The bill would have meant a seat is to be contested only by women in the 22 provinces.
It passed through two readings but was defeated in the third.
That bill would have changed the political landscape and given women guaranteed seats and voice in the national parliament.
Many women candidates, including Soso, Gore and Kouza, were up against a political set-up which favoured men more.
Central regional seat candidate Rufina Peter urged the government and development partners to look at a “well-planned and comprehensive intervention package to create a level-playing field for women in PNG politics”.
Peter highlighted the four
main challenges facing women vying to become MPs:
- The perception of many that politics is a man’s world and that women are ill-equipped to be effective political leaders;
- the current political culture promotes corrupt practices – particularly money to buy votes;
- there isn’t adequate financial resources and logistical support for the entire election period; and
- Women face brokering support of traditional tribal leaders to secure sufficient base votes to be serious contenders among the men.
The question is who is going to drive the campaign to bring back that bill. Then it was the Minister for Community Affairs and only female MP Dame Carol Kidu who was in the driver’s seat.
It is important for any developing nation to have women representation in Parliament.
Studies systematically show that female politicians are more likely to concentrate on issues that matter more to women such as day care, gender equality, reproductive rights, flex time, elderly care and children’s welfare.
It seems pretty intuitive that there are some issues that are more important to women and affect them more.
It also seems like common sense that women would be more likely to focus on these issues than men. Not only do women politicians take an interest in different policy issues, but it has also been shown that they also govern differently.
Reforms in legislation and policies around the world have had an impact on increasing women’s participation in Parliament and in leadership roles and PNG should also do the same.
This government must work with all concern stakeholders to find out and address women were not being voted in and agree on a national plan as we look ahead to 2022.
Women represent about 50 per cent of the total population of this nation. Leaving them out of the nation’s august law-making body is just so unfair and does not make sense.
Our mothers deserve better treatment.