[NUKU’ALOFA 08 JANUARY 2015]: The Tongan Women in Action (TWAC) network currently administered by the Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) welcomes the response of the Prime Minister for women to come up with legislation to change the situation of women’s political representation in parliament.
The response from the Prime Minister came following a petition that was submitted with 416 signatures calling for the PM to consider using his prerogative under the law to appoint a woman to a Ministerial Portfolio following the results of the General Elections where none of the female candidates were successful.
In Tonga’s Political history the late Queen Salote and her government had given women the right to vote and stand as candidates since 1951. From 1951 – It took 8 parliamentary terms or another 24 years before we saw the first women elected into Parliament and that was HRH Princess Mele Si’ilikutapu in 1975-1978 as one of the People’s Representatives from Tongatapu
- 3 years later in 1978-1981 or the next parliamentary session – the 2nd women elected into parliament – Tongatapu PR Papiloa Foliaki
- From 1981 14 years later for the period 1995-1998: the 3rd Women elected into parliament and first women to be elected as PR to the Niuas – ‘Ofa Fusitu’a
- From 1998 7 years later for the period 2005-2008: the 4th and currently the last women elected into parliament – Niuas PR Lepolo Mahe Taunisila
- And in the last two general elections under the new democratic reforms no women have been elected in. so we could say that from 2008 (the last elections under the old system) plus the 2010 and 2014 general elections a total a 6 years we have had no women elected into parliament by the people
So in summary since 1951 up until the last general elections held in 2014 a total of 63 years – there have only ever been four women elected by the people into parliament.
The Prime Minister’s response to the petition submitted to him on the 03 January 2015 is welcomed by the newly established TWAC network. According to ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki Director of WCCC and voluntary facilitator of TWAC: “the petition itself has generated a lot of public debate and it was certainly the hot topic of the first week of the year and it was the first petition given to the new Prime Minister which has worked in our favour as we have seen with his response. We will definitely hold him accountable to this response,” says Guttenbeil Likiliki.
The TWAC network is open to all Tongan women in Tonga, NZ, Australia, USA, UK and the diaspora, women living or residing in Tonga and male friends, colleagues, partners who support the cause. A FACEBOOK PAGE titled Tongan Women in Action is dedicated to the facilitation and administration of this group. “Over the next four years TWAC has one mission: To build solidarity amongst women in progressing women’s political participation in Tonga. One of our priorities this year will be undertaking research into the what the best model for Tonga would look like in terms of affirmative action and temporary special measures”, says Guttenbeil-Likiliki. [ENDS]