Give ministry to woman MP

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday August 08th, 2012

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill is scheduled to announce today his full cabinet.
Last night, he said no­thing was finalised but somewhere in there, we are confident recognition will be made of the historical election win by three wo­men MPs.
Julie Soso is governess of Eastern Highlands so it would be super if one or both, Loujaya Toni and De­lilah Gore, were given ministerial positions.
Indeed, we would vouch that it is a non-negotiable issue for one to be in the ministry.
We just hope that they are not allocated the predictable ministry of community development.
In the immediate past, our only female national politician, Dame Carol Kidu, has only ever been allowed to fulfil the community development ministry which covers welfare, sports, women, youth and churches’ affairs.
She did a magnificent job in it. If anything, the triumphant entry of the current three MPs into parliament is due in part to the extensive awareness led by Dame Carol on women representation in parliament. It may be that her campaign for appointed MPs and, later, for reserved seats might not have been welcomed entirely but they created the impetus that eventually netted PNG three MPs.
Still, the community development ministry, while important, is not the sole preserve of women MPs. It should not be seen as such. Men can and should serve in this ministry too.
These women have challenged a field full of male candidates and come home. Now is the time to show off the abilities of women as leaders and as managers. If they can perform well today, they will be able to provide that most important role model for many more in their footsteps, not just women, but men also.
The prime minister’s choice of jobs today will also mark him out as a progressive and conscientious leader.
It would be another milestone development if the prime minister was to announce today a special ministry on women and gender. But again, that should not be seen as a specific job for one of the women MPs.
The concerns of women are the responsibility of all 111 members of parliament, not just women MPs. The burden should not now shift to women because there are three in parliament.
These women representatives are there to represent their constituents which comprise both men and women.
Male members of parliament, likewise, represent the interest of all constituents including women and marginalised groups.
Women are in parliament to discuss anything from the rights of people living with disabilities to gene splicing and anything in between.
They have a right to occupy any ministerial seat commensurate with their qualification and experience and in time aspire for the highest position in the land.
But it is important to separate women and gender issues.
Gender allows for a wider focus on structural impediments that prevent men, women and marginalized groups like people living with disabilities and those living with HIV/AIDS from contributing to and benefiting from development efforts.
The prime minister must ensure the person appointed to head such a department is well qualified in order to advise the minister and the prime minister appropriately and help articulate the prime minister’s intentions for this ministry.
Again, such a person does not have to automatically be a woman.
The choices made today by the prime minister should complement the choices made by the people. It should lift, in the minds of all, the low estimation this nation has been held as a nation.