Female Pacific parliamentarians will this weekend meet with Australian MPs and senators at a new forum aimed at boosting the numbers of women in Pacific politics.
Participants of the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum (PWPPF) hope it will cement the first step in a five-year project funded by AusAID.
The PWPP has been developed as part of the action agenda for w.comm, which is a network of Australian federal, state and territory women parliamentarians.
Around 40 MPs from the Pacific and Australia will come together in Sydney to begin planning activities and outcomes for the project, including mentoring and on-the-job training for Pacific women MPs in community engagement and parliamentary skills.
Pacific parliamentarians will hear from a number of presenters such as Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives Ms Anna Burke, Harvard Professor Pippa Norris, and w.comm chair Lisa Baker MP.
“We will identify practical ways of working together to bring more Pacific women into their parliaments, encourage a more balanced ‘gender perspective’ in all our parliaments, and create a voice for women that strengthens our societies and enhances our development as nations,” Ms Baker said.
The forum will also invite the project partners to canvass activities that are being run in the Pacific to empower women MPs, enhance their parliamentary skills, and ensure parliaments in the region can address gender equality issues.
Participants will be asked to develop an outcomes document at the conclusion of the forum to help guide the further development of the project over the next few years.
“Pacific Island parliaments continue to have few women among their elected representatives,” Speaker of the federal House of Representatives, Anna Burke, said.
“At just four per cent it is too low and Australia is keen to assist to raise the level and help to deliver gender equality in the Pacific.”
“I am thrilled with the positive response to the forum generated by current Pacific, New Zealand and Australian women members of parliament, and greatly look forward to hearing of the experiences and advice from the women of Pacific parliaments in this important first step of the five-year program.
“Having more women elected to parliament in the Pacific sets the example for all that equality is real and achievable.”
Parliamentarians coming from the Pacific include the speaker of the Cook Islands Niki Rattle, the Marshall Islands Minister for Education Hilda Heine and the newly-elected women of the PNG Parliament, Delilah Gore and Julie Soso Akeke.
Australian parliamentarians attending include federal MPs Amanda Rishworth and Jane Prentice and Senator Lee Rhiannon, and w.comm deputy-chair Christine Fyffe.
The Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Program is the first activity to be implemented under AusAID’s $320 million Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative.
The five-year, $2.8 million program aims to build capacity of women members of parliament in the Pacific and develop understanding of the factors that contribute to Pacific women’s success in achieving political office and the support they require once they are elected.