FOR the first time in 25 years (since the 1992 election), no females made up the 111-member Parliament, despite more female candidates being nominated for the 2017 national general election than ever before (167 of 3,332 were female).
After the 2012 election, it was a record three females elected into Parliament – former Eastern Highlands governor Julie Soso, Delilah Gore as Sohe MP and Loujaya Kouza for Lae Open and none of them made it back in 2017.
Since Independence and after nine national elections (including 2017), only seven women have been elected to Parliament.
Maybe, it would have been different had the Equality and Participation Bill (or the Women’s Bill, as it is widely known) was passed in 2012 for the 22 reserved seats for women.
The bill would mean that each of the 22 provinces would directly elect two people to Parliament – one seat for which both men and women could contest and one for which only women could contest.
That bill would have changed the political landscape and give women their rightful place in society.
Maybe it’s time the bill is revisited.
The question now is, who is going to sponsor?
The bill back then was sponsored by former minister for Community Affairs and only female MP, Dame Carol Kidu.
That’s just one aspect of getting a female representative into Parliament.
After the 2017 national general election, Rufina Peter, a candidate in the Central Regional seat highlighted four main challenges for female candidates in PNG:
- THE perception of many Papua New Guineans that politics is a man’s world and that women are ill-equipped to be effective political leaders;
- CURRENT political culture promotes corrupt practices – particularly significant expenditure to buy votes;
- THERE isn’t adequate financial resources and logistical support for the entire election period; and,
- WOMEN face brokering support of traditional tribal leaders to secure sufficient base votes in order to be a serious contender among the male candidates.
The only way to overcome and address these challenges is for the Government and development partners to move beyond short-term interventions to implementing a well-planned and comprehensive intervention package with the overall objective to create a level playing field for women in PNG politics.
It is important for any developing nation to have women representation in Parliament as studies systematically show that female politicians are more likely to concentrate on issues that matter more to women such as day care, gender equality, reproductive rights, flex time, elderly care and children’s welfare.
It seems pretty intuitive that there are some issues that are more important to women and affect them more.
It appears to be common sense that women would be more likely to focus on these issues than men.
Not only do women politicians take an interest in different policy issues, but it has been shown that they govern differently.
Reforms in legislation and policies around the world have had an impact on increasing women’s participation in Parliament and in leadership roles and PNG should do the same.
This Government should work with all relevant stakeholders to find out and address women were not being voted in and agree on a national plan forward.
There was some good news from Prime Minister James Marape last week saying the Government was proposing to split the country into five regions and have a female representative from each as it looked at including women in Parliament.
Let’s keep watch on this development.