As part of the Increasing Political Participation of Women in Samoa (I.P.P.W.S) Programme, the United Nations Development Programme (U.N.D.P) and U.N. Women in partnership with the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly (O.C.L.A) are organising a Practise Parliament Session to support women candidates in their efforts to get elected to the National Parliament in the March elections.
The Practise Parliament will take place today at the Faleata Sports Complex, Tuanaimato, from 8:00am to 2:30pm. Programme includes a debate for the introduction of a Practise Bill and then a question time session with Speaker, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt.
Since August of last year, U.N.D.P. and U.N. Women have organised many training sessions for potential candidates as well as journalists, N.G.Os and political parties.
Nineteen women from Upolu and Savai’i have benefitted from the training and learning about political processes and parliamentary procedures.
For the last few months, women have strengthened their capacities in a variety of topics such as how to communicate and engage with voters through the use of different media, how to plan and run a successful election campaign and how to become a good parliamentarian by providing services to the constituents after the election and debating on the role that M.Ps should have in the national budget process.
Formative sessions have been facilitated by Elizabeth Weir, a senior international parliamentary expert, Canadian born, with extensive experience in training parliamentarians, political party activists and candidates in many countries of the world.
On December 3rd, U.N.D.P. and U.N. Women also launched a handbook titled: “Building Blocks of Gender Equality.”
The publication identifies targeted interventions for promoting the stronger presence and influence of women in political parties as well as advancing gender equality issues in party policies and platforms.
The Pacific has the world’s lowest rates of women in parliament – an average of just 5.5 per cent – and this is also reflected in Samoa. Just three women are currently in parliament, which means Samoa ranks 126 out of 138 countries; in the 2011 election, just eight of the 162 candidates were women.
“Making gender equality and political participation a reality is a core commitment of the United Nations Development Programme (U.N.D.P.) and U.N. Women,” said Gatoloai Tili Afamasaga, I.P.P.W.S Coordinator.
“U.N.D.P. has previously conducted Mock Parliaments for Women in Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tonga but this is the first Practice Parliament ever for women in Samoa and we look forward to seeing the results of the work done in the last months.”