Women want reserve seats in next provincial elections

Women participated in yesterday’s International Women’s Day parade through Port Vila town led by the Minister for Justice Warsal and Acting DG Pakoa Siri

By Anita Roberts

One of the women’s desire voiced during yesterday’s International Women’s Day (IWD) in Port Vila was to be given opportunity to contest provincial elections and to increase women representatives in the government.

In 2013, the government approved reserved seats for women in the Port Vila Municipal Council and Luganville Municipal Council in 2015.

It was an important step towards realizing women’s participation in public affairs.

Over the past couple of years, reserving seats for women in parliament has seen ongoing talks as the number of women representatives continues to decline. Today, there are no women in the 52-seat parliament.

Yesterday’s celebration stressed that female politicians are more likely to concentrate on issues that matter more to women such as gender equality.

After 36 years since independence the government has failed to ensure women representation in parliament, said Hilda Lini, one of Vanuatu’s first female MP and state minister. Lini was the first female to be elected to parliament.

She said: “Vanuatu needs more women in parliament.

“It’s really on the government to work with the Department of Women’s Affair to ensure that women are represented in parliament.

“Saying women must unite is a lame excuse.

“The government doesn’t realize it is suffering economically because it lacks economists who are women.

“It’s high time that women participate in provincial elections, through both reserved and open seats,” she added.

The Minister for Justice and Community Services, Ronald Warsal, responsible for women, urged all women leaders to unite despite differences.

“Our country is very small therefore, you should not be divided.

“Your (women’s) aspirations will be realized only if you prove to the government that you stand together,” he said.

The Director of the Department of Women’s Affairs, Dorosthy Kenneth, assured the audience that her office is ready to work for change.

“Are we ready for change?”, she challenged the women.

“We might not like what the minister said about unity but it’s true,” she said.

When emphasizing on preparedness, Mrs Kenneth has stressed that instead of just giving tickets for women to run elections, political parties should also train women to make change.

A lot of the speeches delivered yesterday were encouragement to all women and women leaders to enact change through unity.

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