Political Empowerment of women in Papua New Guinea
Comprising over 50 percent of the world’s population, women continue to be under-represented as voters, political leaders and elected officials, the universal commitment of CEDAW calls member states to have at least 30% of women representation in decision-making positions. As highlighted by the UNDP Administrator, Ms Helen Clark on the International Women’s Day in 2011: "Advances are being made in many areas, but no yet fast enough. For example, less than 10 per cent of countries have women heads of state or government, and only 19 per cent of the world’s parliamentarians are women. While more women than ever before are participating in the work force, almost two-thirds of women in the developing world work in the informal economy without labour rights and social protection; Globally, women are more likely to be jobless, and to have borne the worst setbacks of the economic crisis."
In the Pacific, Pacific Island Forum (PIF) declaration on Women’s Rights underpins the need for more women in Parliament. In 2012 the PIF Gender Equality Declaration committed to adopt measures to accelerate women participation, such as temporary special measures to establish reserved seats for women and political party reforms. In Pacific Islands Forum countries, not including Australia and New Zealand, there are only 23 female MPs out of 486 MPs.
Despite the obstacles, Papua New Guinea has made some progress over the past 3 to 5 years, at both h National and Sub National levels. There are now three female MPs in the current parliament compared to one woman in the previous parliament.
What did UNDP do differently? Initially, UNDP’s support largely focused on promoting Temporary Special Measures through: Legislation drafting, Advocacy Campaigns at various levels, Support to countrywide road shows on the need for Women Reserve Seats, among others. This Advocacy Campaign raised more awareness on the importance of women representation resulting into tabling the Bill at the floor of Parliament.
With the Bill not getting the Majority Vote, UNDP moved quickly extend support for women to to run for Open seats; Among the initiatives supported, UNDP: 1)Conducted a Practice Parliament and Women Candidates training to enhance skills for women to campaign and debate development issues; 2) Engaged Political Parties to nominate women candidates; and 3) Engagement with media to promote women representation.
Learning from experiences and lessons from other countries: In 2006 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was sworn in as Liberia’s president, making her Africa’s first elected female leader; News Zealand in one of only two countries in the world to have two female heads of government directly succeed the other. The first female NZ Prime Minister was Jenny Shipley who was succeeded by Helen Clark in 1999. These experiences further increased women visibility to be elected as leaders in higher offices.
Through the combined efforts of UNDP and its partners, media campaigns where launched in favor of raising further awareness on women's representation. These included radio campaigns that contained 8 different messages running for months on national radios; Press releases, radio talk shows; television shows, among others.
As a result, PNG has 3 women in the 9th parliament with over 20 women elected at recently concluded Local Level Government Elections; Political Parties are getting more women into party leadership; the 22 Reserve seats Bill is generating momentum to be re-tabled on the floor of Parliament;