The National, Monday 30th July 2012
WOMEN candidates who contested the general election in the New Guinea Islands region fared reasonably well.
The region had 22 women candidates: Five in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, three in East New Britain, two in Manus, four in New Ireland and eight in West New Britain.
In Manus, the women candidates were only seen when counting began, which probably indicated that they were not popular among the men or feared for their safety.
Not too many women in Manus came forward to contest and if they did.
Now that they have heard of the two women MPs in Lae and Sohe, they will probably plan to contest the 2017 elections.
The “haus boy” system in Manus where men were “lapans” (leaders) would have had some influence on women staying away.
The two candidates there were Ruth Francis, who was endorsed by People’s Resource Awareness Party and who contested the Manus open seat, and Rose Parkop Kalana, an independent candidate who contested the provincial seat.
In Bougainville, North Bougainville returning officer Marcellin Kiarei praised the five women for their efforts in the elections and for standing up to challenge men.
Three out of the five women finished well, showing the support for women leaders in the region.
The candidates were Rachael Konaka and Francesca Semoso who contested the North Bougainville seat, Theresa Jaintong, in Central Bougainville and Magdeline Toroansi, Marcelline Getsi in the regional seat.
The women were encouraged to work together in moving the region forward.
Speaking of her experiences, Jaintong said there were many challenges ahead that she would need to address.
She said she would try again in 2017 but before that she intends to devise a systematic, fact-based and cost-effective campaign strategy.
Jaintong will in the next five years run training in local level governments to make people aware of the importance of gender equality in decision-making, leadership voter education, good governance, roles of a parliamentarian and mobilisation of women.
In East New Britain, independent candidate Rosemary Sovek, contesting the Rabaul seat against 11 men, managed 700 votes in the primary count and was the third to be eliminated from the race.
In Gazelle, Odelia Virua received a few votes and was one of the first to be eliminated.
Lone female candidate in the East New Britain provincial seat Laneith Aua was up against 14 men.
She began well in the primary counts but was eventually eliminated.
It was the same story for the eight women who contested the three seats in West New Britain and the four who put their hands up for seats in New Ireland.