The need to increase women representation in Parliament is a shared goal among all Pacific nations.
And with the world commemorating International Women’s Day yesterday, there is no better time than now to raise awareness.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, New Zealand’s Minister of Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, said the Pacific, not including New Zealand and Australia, has some of the worst women representation statistics internationally.
“But that doesn’t mean that we (New Zealand) have got it completely down pat too because we are still struggling,” she said.
“We should be 50 percent represented, but we’re not, so it’s a challenge that we all face and we are all working together on, but I feel that when we do come together, when we get a few opportunities to do this as Pacific female parliamentarians, there is a bond there, there’s that support across the different Pacific countries whether it be Samoa, Niue, Fiji or Tonga, Cook Islands and New Zealand and Australia, to make sure that we are all working together to ensure that we’ve got the best representation that we can.”
The New Zealand Government’s official visit on Monday showcased their desire to include more Pacific women at the decision making table.
Ms. Sepuloni praised Samoa for taking the lead in increasing women representation in Government and also paid tribute to Samoa’s longest running female politician, Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, for her service to Samoa and the Pacific.
“Obviously there’s still a long way to go and to Samoa’s credit, they introduced a quota which is leading the way in the Pacific because it’s not common, it’s the only Pacific country that I know of that has introduced that. So that’s a step in the right direction and we just want to support in whatever way we can.
“In saying that, someone like Deputy Prime Minister Fiame is a seasoned politician, so for someone like me, who has really only been around for just a few years, I look to her and I think what an amazing leader, she has survived what is a really difficult and challenging environment for decades now and she has survived it well and she has done a fantastic job. She is respected and I guess for us Pacific women coming from New Zealand – she is a role model in many ways.”
Among the N.Z. delegation was Samoan born Tofilau Bernadette Pereira, who is the New Zealand National President of the P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A. Woman’s organization.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Tofilau said she will be looking at inroads in the future for their N.G.O. to have stronger links to Samoa. She mentioned she was filled with pride at the high levels of achievement Samoan women were reaching in both New Zealand and Samoa.
“I was hoping to link up with other similar women’s organisations here because I want to bring our P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A. annual conference to Samoa.
“We are so ahead and you can draw parallels of what is happening in Samoa is happening in New Zealand. You can track where our people are in Samoa and your pride just swells, they are in significant positions strategically both in Government and in the business world and the third sector, the strongest sector, which is civic societies and N.G.Os.
“We are so proud, even in this current Government, we have three women who are members of P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A. such as Carmel Sepuloni and she is the Minister for the biggest portfolio there is, as Minister of Social Development, and then she also has other side portfolios and then you have Jenny Salesa, who also holds a very big portfolio as the Associate Minister for Health and another Tongan woman Anahila, they all come from P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A.”
The N.G.O. is the longest premier Pacific women’s organization in New Zealand and they have been in existence for more than 40 years to help Pacific women in the earlier migration to transition into New Zealand society.
Today their membership of past and present is a long list of some of the most influential Pacific women occupying significant positions in government, businesses and civil societies.