By ALISON ANIS
HAVING women leaders at the National Parliament would be a great step forward in advancing gender equality and achieving sustainable and inclusive development in the country, visiting UNDP administrator and chair to the UN Development Group Helen Clark said yesterday.
Ms Clark said the legislation on reserved 22 seats for women in Parliament, if passed, could be a big turning point for the country in gender development and other issues associated with it.
“Advancing the status of women through promoting women’s empowerment and girls education, and improving child and maternal health is a proven way to accelerate progress toward all the MDGs,” she said.
Ms Clark was speaking on the role of women in development at the launching of the second national Millennium Development Goals Progress report for PNG and the inauguration of the national women’s forum at the National Parliament state function room yesterday to wrap up her three-day visit to the country.
“The clock is ticking fast towards 2015 and serious challenges stand in the way of meeting the MDGs by that date, she said, adding that the MDG Summit needs to have a strong gender focus.
“That is because we see the least progress on the MDGs where the needs and status of women are given low priority,” she said, adding that achieving gender equality was critical for meeting other MDGs .
“That is why empowering women and girls is so central to efforts underway in Papua New Guinea to accelerate towards the MDGs.”
Ms Clark said increasing the voice and participation of women in politics was critical for putting women’s issues on national agendas and ensuring that women were fully included in a nation’s development.
She added that she knew fully well as a former prime minister that politics changes for the better when women were able to play their full part.
“But without doubt one of the hardest places for women to break in has been to elected office at the national level.”
She said she hoped the forum would encourage even more concerted efforts to advance the role of women in development in Papua New Guinea.