More women need to become MPs: Semoso

If the Pacific is to have more gender sensitised policies passed then more women need to become members of parliament.

These were the words of Deputy Speaker of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Francesca Semoso, after returning from a two-day workshop in Brisbane, Australia.

“There are decisions that are being made that are male-oriented and do not cater for women and children,” said Semoso.

She outlined that the workshop in Brisbane was funded by the United Nations Development Program and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and focused on male views as to why women struggled to get into parliament.

“In the Pacific we still need women in parliament so UNDP and DFAT decided to get male parliamentarians from all around the Pacific to listen to their honest feelings about how come we are not seeing that many women in parliament,” said Semoso.

She mentioned that some of the male parliamentarians also expressed some form of insecurity in women taking over their seats.

“Then my comment to them was, well then if you are so insecure about women taking over your seat then we’ll have to create something like the reserved seats.

“It’s quite hard for other parliaments to understand that these are temporary measures, they are there until such a time that we feel that women can now play on the same level playing field.”

She relayed that on Bougainville they have three reserved seats for women, plus a woman managed to get voted in through the normal process.

“We’ve got a number of male champions in the ABG, including the president, the speaker and most of the male parliamentarians in the ABG.

“They now realise the role that women have played as we roll out the unification forums and getting our people prepared for the referendum vote in 2019,” expressed Semoso.

She said the biggest challenge was among women themselves; from her own experience, women did not support other women candidates.

“We need to get our act together and question ourselves, what have we done to prepare ourselves to get into parliament.

“What are we fighting about, instead of women supporting each other when it’s election time, it’s the men that give us support.

“I’ve got really good experiences about the support I get from men.

“In the first election I was elected into the reserved seat not by women, three quarters of my votes came from men.”

Meredith Kuusa