In celebrating International Women’s Day today, let us congratulate all the women who were daring enough to step up to the plate during last Friday’s General Elections. Win or lose, you deserve to be commended for trying.
While some of them who were unsuccessful would feel that this is perhaps the end of the road, for many, now that they have had a taste of it, this would only be the beginning. In that case, there are some exciting times ahead to look forward to.
Keep in mind that four women have already secured their seats in Parliament. Which means that with one more woman to be added, we are set to make history in as far as the number of women in our Parliament goes.
There is no doubt that the most talked about change in this year’s General Election was the Constitutional amendment to guarantee that at least 10 per cent of Parliament is made up of women. Driven by the desire to see more women in the halls of power at Ti’afau, the law change has had an immediate impact. From less than 10 candidates during the last General Election to 24; it was certainly an improvement. But has that translated to the result women – and the campaign for more women – wanted?
Without the proper statistics to back up an argument, it must be said that the outcome – in terms of the number of women who won - would be quite disappointing. When you take way three women who were already members, one out of 46 seats is a miserable failure. We would have liked to see more.
But to keep our sanity, we take you back to a point we made in this column* a few weeks ago in terms of women in Parliament. We said that we live in a world where we want instant gratification and instant everything. And given the strong push by the U.N. Women, Samoa Ala Mai and all the advocacy groups who have been rallying for more women in Parliament, the result is sad.
But we also said then that we should not get too far ahead of ourselves. We’ve got to make a start somewhere and the number of candidates we had for last week’s election was a good start.
Indeed, changes take time and this is one of them cases where patience will certainly be the virtue. The reality is that it would have been foolish to expect all the female candidates to win simply because there had been such a strong push – and an equally strong publicity campaign - to get the voting public behind them.
To realise the vision of achieving gender equality in Parliament, we have to accept that it is going to take time. Lots and lots of time.
Yes there will be plenty of tears, sorrows and disappointment along the way.
There will be frustrations. But that’s par for the course.
After all we are up against attitudes and macho mentalities that have taken years to form. It will take just as long to unlearn these attitudes and we have got to be patient.
But take courage. We should be comforted that at least there is now an active movement and growing awareness among members of the public that women can do whatever men have been doing – and probably do it better.
With the law change, Samoa is entering untested waters in the Pacific. And it must be said that the quota of five guaranteed by the Constitution is only the floor. The ultimate goal is obviously a bigger number.
So let’s keep our heads up. It can only get better.
On that note, on International Women’s Day today, we want to especially congratulate Gatoloaifaana Amataga Gidlow, Faimalo Kika Stowers and the new Member of Parliament, Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau. We look forward to finding out who the fifth female M.P. will be.
We also want to take this opportunity to congratulate the new deputy leader of the H.R.P.P who will mostly become our new Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.
On Saturday, Fiame defeated another H.R.P.P member, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, 21-19 during a caucus vote to secure the position.
“I’m happy not only for my constituency but for the sake of gender equality,” said Fiame. “It sets a pathway for us and for other females to recognise their potential.”
Fiame went on to say that women need to participate and engage in the political dialogue and developments to give themselves a chance to be appointed to such high offices.
She added that women could only be part of the political leadership if they are proactive, participate and remain engaged.
Those are words of wisdom. All women should read them carefully and meditate upon. In simple language, for women the road to the next General Elections starts here and now.
Happy International Women’s Day Samoa, God bless!