One of the more interesting aspects and certainly the most talked about change in this year’s General Elections is 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 Tiafau, the law change has had an immediate impact in as far as the number of women who are putting up their hands to be elected.
From less than 10 candidates during the last General Election to 24 confirmed for this year; it is certainly an improvement – one that must be viewed as a step in the right direction.
But we live in a world where we want instant gratification and instant everything. There will be people who would perhaps feel disappointed that not more women are running. And that’s a valid point too.
Given the strong push by the UN Women, Samoa Ala Mai and all the advocacy groups who have been rallying for more women to run as candidates, one gets the feeling that yes maybe there should be more.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves now folks.
We’ve got to make a start somewhere and the number of candidates we have had so far is a great 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 be foolish to expect all the women candidates to win simply because there has now 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. Lot and lots of time.
Yes there will be plenty of tears, sorrows and disappointment along the way. It is not going to be smooth sailing; there will be bumps and bruises. There will be frustrations. But that’s par for the course.
It must be said that Samoa Ala Mai group could not have picked a better and more inspiring speaker than Congresswoman Aumua Amata Coleman for their sessions this week. Her story is that of perseverance, determination and a commitment to a cause that was unshakable. She did not fail once, twice, three times on her way to where she is today. She ran and lost a whopping 11 times before she eventually won. If that doesn’t inspire our women, I don’t know what will.
The point is that the road is not going to be easy. After all, the women who have been daring enough to put their hands up 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.
At the end of the day, we will never know if women are capable of running the country unless they are given a chance.
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.
And what if all the women candidates somehow win their seats? Who will say no to that?
Having said that, please don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying you should vote for a woman simply based on gender. That would be injustice and I’m sure women would feel insulted by that.
We want you to vote for them because of what they bring to the table.
All these women are qualified and they are here on their own steam. They are skilled, equipped and they are keen to bring changes where necessary. Give them a chance.
Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!