Bid on reserved seats gains momentum

National, Normal

SOME 220 women have travelled from various parts of the country to Port Moresby in support of a bill to reserve 22 parliamentary seats for women.
Aged between 18 and 60, they have travelled from as far as the Gulf, West New Britain and Southern Highlands.
The bill is expected to be tabled on Tuesday.
If successful, the seats would be effected in the next general election due in 2012.
“We have the ability and knowledge to all stand together to make a better future in this country for women,” Albina Muko, a widow from West New Britain who works with an NGO providing health services to communities in the province, said.
The mother-of-four felt that women should be given the opportunity to sustain their lives in order to enjoy a better livelihood.
“The government should be encouraging and driving self-sustaining programmes so that people can properly take care of themselves and their families.
“Women are not adequately being heard (at the decision-making level) – we need to bring the real nitty-gritty issues affecting women and children to the table.”
Muko said she and other women, who had gathered at parliament to hear the outcome of the session, were not going against the male MPs.
“We want to work beside them. We want them to refocus,” she said.
“Women are the backbone of the household. We are an important part of this country.
“We carry the children of this country in our wombs – we need to be supported and recognised as important citizens in PNG.”
Muko also called on the provincial leaders not to abandon their responsibilities if the people did not vote for them.
She said they still had a mandate to fulfill, adding that the money they were receiving were from the people.
“If parliament refuses to pass the Equality and Participation Bill, they are forgetting their people. Come election time, men should support us.”
At 59 years of age, Alice Billy is the oldest among the group.
She has been fighting for equality and participation in all levels of government through the National Council of Women for 35 years.
“Women must be empowered in this country. We must get to the top decision making level,” Billy said.
“It will be the dawn of a new era for PNG women – for all the fights and struggles (women have endured).
“If we cannot speak today, our daughters will not tomorrow.
“We must put something in place for a better environment for our daughters to live in.
“We are not here for anything negative.
“We are only looking at the positive – for a positive future for all.”