In our last newsletter edition, I had mentioned that the chances of females getting into parliament during the elections were pretty slim. Unfortunately, no female candidates got in at all on the day of elections. What I do believe the results have proven though is that its time for some affirmative action policies – the problem is however, not many people understand how it works. Affirmative action policies support special temporary measures.
The key word is ‘temporary.’ It puts in place specially reserved seats for women representatives to Parliament over a certain period, let’s say 3 parliamentary sessions. What this does is that it works to change mindsets and attitudes towards having women in parliament among the general public and also aims at highlighting the strengths and skills that women can bring to parliament as decision makers. Once the temporary measures are removed – the country then returns to normal elections.
The result of the normal elections will then ideally show a marked improvement in voter belief systems and an increase in women getting into parliament. This has clearly been the case for French Polynesia, France, Monaco and Rwanda. In 2005 Tonga was noted in the World Summit Outcome to “promote increased represtation of women in Government decision-making bodies” as one of the ‘dirty dozen’– one of only twelve member states of the United Nations that had very few women in parliament. As Tonga defines its new, increasingly democratic identity, it’s time to make a change and introduce special seats for women!