Female candidates contesting the General Elections in March enjoyed a taste of Parliament yesterday. The occasion was a Mock Parliament, which was facilitated by the Speaker of the House, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt.
Organised by U.N.D.P and U.N Women in partnership with the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, the idea was to give the candidates a taste of Parliament.
U.N. Resident Coordinator and U.N.D.P Representative, Lizbeth Cullity, congratulated all the candidates for standing up and for taking the challenge of contesting for the election.
“The Pacific has the lowest number of women participation in Parliament,” she said.
“And this is also reflected in Samoa, with just three women who 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.”
“However, we are happy that the government of Samoa has passed a bill to increase the participation of women in parliament, and we hope the number will keep increasing.”
Speaker La’auli said the session was successful. He hailed the Constitutional Amendment that will ensure 10 per cent of seats in the House are occupied by women.
“Under the Sustainable Development Goals, we are to promote gender equality and human rights, and that includes equal opportunities for both genders in Parliament,” Laauli said.
On the agenda for debate yesterday was the Constitutional Amendment of 2013.
The participants were divided into two political parties, the H.R.P.P and Tautua Samoa Party.
Namulauulu Dr. Malofouosamoa Potoi was appointed as the Prime Minister for the day. Fiso Evelini Fa’amoe was selected as Deputy Prime Minister.
For the Opposition party, Tole’afoa Mara Hunter was their leader.
The H.R.P.P supported the 10 per cent quota while the Tautua Samoa pushed for more. Lemalu Nele Leilua, of the Tautua Party for instance, moved a motion to increase the number to 33 per cent. This was supported by Seuoti Sheryl Muagututi’a.
But the motion was voted out. Fiso told the Tautua Party that they should be grateful that the number has been increased.
“This is a great start,” she said. “And we should take one step at a time; there is no need to rush.”
Va’asilifiti Moelagi Jackson disagreed.
“If we want to give our women more chances in Parliament, then give them the same opportunity as men,” she said. “Why did we start with just 10?”
Prime Minister Namulauulu said 10 per cent is a good start.
“Everything and anything starts from the bottom and eventually we will get to the top.”
In the end, Fiso said the Mock Parliament was a “great practice for us all.”
Speaker La’auli said he was thoroughly impressed.
“This is good practice for them and as we’ve seen today, most of them are very confident and we can see that they are ready for Parliament,” he said.
For Georgina Bonin, the U.N.D.P’s Assistant Resident Representative, she said the session was a great way to expose the candidates to the realities of Parliament.
“Today, we’ve witnessed how strong and confident the candidates are,” she said. “We’ve also witnessed their willingness and the potential they have. Most of them spoke with confidence and we can tell that they all have what it takes to be leaders of this country, and I am happy for that.”