Special moment to be in Samoa

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

In Samoa today, more than 60 Parliamentarians from the Pacific region – including Australia and New Zealand - are gathering for a very important meeting.

The fourth Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum was officially opened on Monday evening, with the meeting starting proper yesterday.

For three days, the participants will hear from experts in the field of women’s economic empowerment and fellow members of Parliaments about the challenges that exist; strategies on dealing with them; and opportunities that can be explored. 

The decision to have the meeting in Samoa is perfect.

Not only has Samoa just completed a very peaceful General Election process, when it comes to gender equality and empowering women, Samoa is a leader in the region. With the exception of Australia and New Zealand, statistics will show that Samoa has more women in leadership positions in the private and public sector than anywhere else. And that’s not all.

Recently, Parliament’s decision to amend the Constitution to cement a foundation in terms of the number of women at any one time in Parliament is a milestone on its own. With that, we now have five women Members of Parliament, the most we’ve had in the history of this country.

But perhaps the proudest moment for Samoa in terms of gender equality was when a woman and veteran Member of Parliament, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, won the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P) vote to become the deputy leader of the Party. 

In doing so, Fiame was subsequently appointed by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi as Deputy Prime Minister, heralding a new beginning for Samoa. Barring party seniority, Fiame could well be the Prime Minister of this country today. 

But who knows? Prime Minister Tuilaepa is not going to be there forever. And over time, she might well go on to become Samoa’s first woman Prime Minister. And when that happens, the participants who are here this week for the fourth Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum will look back and remember that they were in Samoa during a very special time.

Organised by the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships (P.W.P.P) and supported by the Australian government through its Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative, the Forum exists to improve the capacities of participating Parliaments to address a plethora of issues and challenges confronting society today.

Speaking of challenges, on Tuesday afternoon, the Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, welcomed all the participants to Samoa. During his address, he delivered some very telling remarks we believe are worth reflecting upon. These points are not just for the visiting Parliamentarians but for all of us.

Said he: “I want to begin my opening remarks with a bold and perhaps provocative statement: the greatest challenge to successful democratic Pacific leadership in the current Pacific context is not climate change, modernisation or globalisation. It is, simply put, being ill-informed and/or unable to act constructively on matters of priority.

“To be able to appropriately manage the many challenges of modern Pacific life we must, as leaders, be prepared to build, endorse, promote and sustain a culture of civic learning and critical dialogue that can generate the kind of analytical tools capable of properly recognising our values and beliefs. This is the foundation of any true democracy.

“Good leadership in today’s Pacific worlds is about being able to balance the politics of power that surround the formation of these tools and the biases that come with it. This entails recognition of the multi-layered nature of politics and leadership. 

“For many in our region this includes the balancing of our indigenous and/or traditional values alongside our Christian values and our economic and geographical realities. This is no small task to achieve.”

We couldn’t agree more. We believe far too many leaders have lost touch with the realities of today because they refuse to acknowledge the truth about what is going on before their very eyes. 

The bottom line is that political leaders of today are facing greater and much more challenges than their previous counterparts had, mainly due to the continuous modern technological advancement and the ever-increasing social, economic and political challenges.

We wish to join the Head of State, Parliament and the government in welcoming all the participants of the 4th Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum to Samoa. We hope you enjoy your stay in Samoa. Have a great time and God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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