It’s vital that women have a strong voice

Letters

Dear Editor, it is almost election time in Papua New Guinea, and it is more important than ever that the women of this county have a strong voice in determining
who will lead for the next five
years.
From voters to poll workers to candidates to advocates, Papua New Guinean women have a vital role to play in ensuring that leaders are elected who are honest, effective, and will help advance the rights and opportunities of women and girls.
For the past several years, the US Embassy has proudly hosted the PNG Women’s Forum, an unequaled opportunity to get to know the strength, the wisdom, and the heart of the women of this country.
During this year’s forum at the University of Goroka, I heard women express their aspirations and how they plan to organise themselves to make sure that their voices are heard at the polls.
I was inspired by their words and their passion, and am happy to see that there are more women running in this year’s election than in the past.
Many of these women have impressive leadership skills and experience from years in business, civil society, and government.
I also commend the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission for creating separate “express” polling lines for women.
I’m hopeful that this small change will allow women to vote freely, without fear of intimidation or influence.
I’m also hopeful that we will see women better-represented in leadership positions.
Having worked at the district, city, state and national levels in the US, I know the value of progressive leadership experience and encourage those who do not secure a seat at the national level this year to seriously consider contesting local level elections next year.
There is still work to be done; both here and in my own nation.
Undoubtedly, this is a global challenge, and one that requires action from a multitude of stakeholders.
As a UN report recently stated, “women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalised from the political sphere, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, lack of access to health care and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women.”
Politically, Papua New Guinea can’t completely succeed as a democracy if half of its population is not able to fully exercise its democratic rights.
I encourage husbands, brothers, fathers and sons to work during this election to ensure that the women in their lives are empowered to make their own choice at the polls.
Talk about what kinds of candidate you prefer and who will be able to execute your vision for the nation.
This is an opportunity that comes along every five years, and, as we all saw during our US elections last November, the voice of voters is powerful and elections can influence the direction of a country.
I wish Papua New Guinea safe, free, and fair elections where women’s voices have a resounding impact on the country’s leadership and development for the next five years.

Catherine Ebert-Gray
US Ambassador to Papua
New Guinea, Solomon Islands
and Vanuatu
Embassy of the United States
of America, Port Moresby

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