As the world celebrated International Women’s Day in March this year, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM Pacific Regional Office) officially opened its doors in Buka, Bounganville in an attempt to promote more women into parliament.
The Buka office is the third sub-regional office to be set up in Papua New Guinea for UNIFEM’s Gender Equality in Political Governance Programme (GEPG). The other sub-regional offices are in the Highlands Province and the Central Province while the National Office is based in Port Moresby.
GEPG Regional Programme Manager Rita Taphorns says the setting up of an office in Bounganville comes in at an opportune time as the region prepares to go into elections in a few months.
”Bouganville is one of the few successful places in the Pacific which has laws for reserved seats for women. However, while there are three seats reserved for women in parliament, there is room for more women if women contested for open seats.”
”GEPG’s presence is the region an attempt to garner more support for women to be leaders.”
GEPG’s sub national Coordinator in Bouganville is Agnes Titus, a reputable leader in the region who has been part of Bouganville’s peace restoration process. She actively participated in mediating peace and facilitating dialogue between women’s groups and governmentt in the post conflict peace-building processes.
During Bougainville Crisis, she was the President of the Bougainville Provincial Council of Women and the Provisional Women’s Representative, to the Bougainville Transitional Government.
”Establishing an office in Bougainville means we are moving towards sensitizing the importance of women’s leadership and participation, in order for the country to achieve its commitments regarding the elimination of discrimination against women and the abolition of gender inequality,” says Titus.
Titus will be carrying out training and development programmes to advance the status of women as citizens and leaders in Bouganville with a workshop which also starts today.
The Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) with a focus on Gender and Elections. This training is aimed at increasing national capacity in advancing women’s leadership. It will seek to develop the ability, comprehension, and confidence both of election professionals and of relevant national audiences such as members of the media, political parties, parliamentarians, electoral observers and civil society organizations.
Taphorn adds that Bouganville has made significant advances towards promoting women in parliament, PNG can also use this as a positive example to vote for the Bill for 22 reserved seats to be tabled in parliament in July.
In PNG, women’s representation in parliaments is still amongst the lowest in the region, with only 0,9% of seats owned by women, that is to say one seat out of 109. Dame Carol Kidu – Minister for Community Affairs and Women’s Desk, and only woman represented in the national parliament – has been discussing options such as TSM to increase women’s representation in the political sphere for long.”
Meanwhile GEPG has just completed two BRIDGE workshop on Gender and Elections in Goroka and Port Moresby. Both were attended by over 20 participants.
Another workshop on Media And Elections is planned for the coming months.