I WOULD like to respond to a claim that gender equality is the devil’s agenda and that MPs should not vote for the proposed reserved seats legislation.
I would like readers to better understand the thinking behind the NEC decision to reform the Constitution to create reserve seats for women.
When PNG gained Independence in 1975, its people called for equality and participation as the second goal of its national goals and directive principles.
The people, through the Constitution, said that every citizen had the same rights, privileges, obligations and duties irrespective of gender.
These are fine principles but the call was not answered for this country’s women.
Today, more than three million PNG men are represented by 108 male Members of Parliament.
However, more than three million women are represented by only one female MP.
The sound of public discussion and decision-making in this country is largely the sound of male voices.
These voices are often wise, often compassionate and often speak inspiring words from the heart.
We value and respect our male leaders.
We know these male voices and their message and their contribution are important.
We also say that male voices alone cannot truly speak for all the people of PNG.
It has been said that “you don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note”. *
The true sound of the PNG people is the sound of both men and women’s voices heard together.
In our Parliament, this true sound of PNG is not heard.
We cannot hear women properly through the voice of one woman among 108 men.
Real prosperity will not come until its vision and its governance draws upon the wisdom, perspective and experience of its women as well as that of its men.
There is evidence to tell us that nations do better when they draw upon the contributions of women as well as men.
There is evidence to tell us that education, health, productivity, credit and governance work better when women are involved.
We know that PNG is better off if it does not waste half of its land.
We know that PNG is better off if it does not waste half of its water.
We know that PNG is better off if it does not waste half of its minerals.
Surely, we also know that PNG is better off if it does not waste the potential of half of its people.
Dame Carol Kidu
Minister for Community Development
* Quote from Doug Floyd in Zadra and Wills, Diversity – Celebrating the differences, Compendium Publishing, 2006