Women hope and pray for 22 reserved seats

National, Normal


WOMEN representatives and leaders gathering in Port Moresby have expressed high hopes that the proposed Equality and Participation Bill to enact 22 reserved seats for women by elective process will be tabled in parliament today.
Following a commitment by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare on Nov 4 for the government to discuss the bill and have it read on the floor of parliament in this session, women from all four corners of PNG had converged on NCD since last week to witness passage of the bill.
Sir Michael, in a media statement on Nov 4, said the proposed bill “was now on the notice paper of the parliamentary business and the government will discuss it come Nov 16”.
However, women leaders said while the assurance was there, they were not sure if this was all part of a political propaganda, especially after indications by leader of government business Paul Tiensten that the opposition’s budget reply “will take precedence over all other government business”.
“It will be a huge relief, and an answer to our prayers, if the bill is tabled today or goes through the first reading,” Kerowagi district council of women president Rosa Yomba said yesterday.
Yomba was among a group of women from Chimbu and West New Britian who arrived in Port Moresby last week to witness parliament’s deliberation on the bill.
“The nation has been crying for change in the way we play politics.
“There is a need for equal representation of both men and women in parliament to bring about the change that everyone is praying for.
“This legislation is our only hope to bring that change for our children, our families and communities,” Yomba said.
Reports said more than 200 women had travelled to Port Moresby to support the push for the proposed legislation in parliament.
Community Development Minister Dame Carol Kidu had described it as “a critical moment for women and the nation”.
“If parliament does not give us the support that we need, I will be very angry knowing that parliament has been playing politics with us all along, and not looking at the issues.
“It will also be disgraceful for them to do that after the commitment to push forward elected reserve seats for women,” she said.