Around 65 women parliamentarians meet in Samoa with aim to lead economic developments in their countries
Wellington, NZ – Around 65 women parliamentarians from Pacific nations including New Zealand and Australia will congregate in Apia, Samoa attending the annual Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum (PWPPF) starting tomorrow, 5 to 7 April 2016.
The Apia meeting, the fourth in the series and second that Labour and Christchurch East MP Ms Poto Williams will attend.
Ms Williams who is the current Chairperson for the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Pacific Region Steering Committee says the PWPPF is one of the “most important events for Pacific women MPs to attend.
“The theme of this conference is important to note. It is not about ‘women’s issues’ but about ensuring women take advantage of the opportunities to lead in the economic development of their countries,” she told Pacific Guardians.
“This is a completely non partisan, cross house structure with members of opposition joining government members from Parliaments across the Pacific.”
In her capacity as Chair for CWP Pacific region she is also looking forward “to discuss mentoring and support which the New Zealand delegation will also participate and assist the new Samoa women MPs via a UN workshop on Friday,” she revealed.
“Given the tyranny of distance it is important for women MPs across the wider Pacific region to have support and mentoring from wiser, experienced parliamentarians, who understand the struggle of being, often a lone women in a parliament dominated by men.”
She added that the Pacific rates of representation for women are the lowest anywhere in the world, therefore the ability to get together and share ideas, support one another and learn from the experts is invaluable.
This year, as in previous years, there is an opportunity for former MPs or local council representatives or prospective candidates to attend, as each has some value to offer and support to be gained.
For the women parliamentarians, there is an extra dimension, celebration to this year’s Samoa forum.
“We celebrate not only the quota of 10 per cent women MPs in Samoa’s parliament, but of course the elevation of Fiame Naomi Mata’afa to deputy Prime Minister which is the highest political position that a woman has held in the 53-year history of Independent Samoa.”
The strengthening of ties and relationships in the Pacific, Australia and Melanesia that are forged and enhanced over the years of working together is essential for the whole region she said.
“We all know the value of connectedness and trusting relationships built over years of working together and supporting each other.
“I’m especially looking forward to re-establishing connections with the women I met last year including the Governor Julia Soso Akeke and Hon Sendilina Lekka from FSM as well as the women from the Cooks and Niuean parliaments.”
In the third PWPPF held in Fiji last year, “the emphasis was on the barriers to leadership, including violence” said Ms Williams.
“This year the focus is more on economic development.”
During the Forum, participants will hear from experts in the field of women’s economic empowerment and fellow members of parliaments of the challenges that exist; strategies on dealing with them; and opportunities that can be explored.
The annual Forum is organised by the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships (PWPP), supported by the Australian Government through its Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative. The Hon Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, is one of the keynote speakers at the event.
PWPP facilitates dialogue, mentoring and training between Australian and Pacific women parliamentarians and parliamentary staff to improve the capacities of parliaments to address gender equality issues.