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Women from across the Pacific come together in New Zealand

29 June 2016

Women from across the Pacific come together in New Zealand to create long-term support networks

Women Members of Parliament from Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tuvalu and a candidate from the 2014 Tongan election, have come together in Wellington with New Zealand Members of Parliament to participate in the first Pacific Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Mentoring Programme. The Programme pairs an experienced New Zealand women Member of Parliament, with her Pacific counterpart for a long-term mentoring relationship. Over the course of this week the MPs will spend time sharing experiences and knowledge, and will establish a plan for keeping in contact, whether to ask for career advice or help with a parliamentary procedural issue.

The Chairperson of the Pacific Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, Poto Williams MP, said “In political life there are far too few opportunities for women to come together without men, to take time away from their families, community commitments, and day jobs and devote time to their professional and personal development. This is a wonderful opportunity to further the cause of increasing women’s representation in the region and help achieve better outcomes for women and girls. I am really looking forward to building lasting relationships with other women Members of Parliament so we can all contribute to developing women’s parliamentary leadership in the Pacific.”

The Programme seeks to equip the participants with practical skills and strategies needed to be an effective parliamentarian in a challenging environment. It includes workshops on legislative and financial scrutiny, campaigning tools, drafting legislation, debating, and strategic engagement with the media. The interactive workshops will be supplemented with observing Question Time and Treaty of Waitangi settlement legislation being debated in the House, and Ministers being questioned by select committees on the performance of their departments.

The Pacific has one of the lowest rates of female participation in political life, and in many Pacific Parliaments there may only be one or very few women MPs. This in turn severely limits internal support networks for women in those parliaments. The personal relationships that will be formed while in New Zealand will hopefully empower the participants, and ensure that they feel supported by other women who have successfully overcome, or are facing, similar challenges.

Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Victoria University of Wellington, Associate Professor, Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, will address the MPs on how to successfully balance work, family and community obligations. In addition Dr Jackie Blue, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, will present on and discuss how gender perspectives can be included in budget and policy proposals. The participants with also meet and engage with the Speaker, Rt Hon David Carter, cross-party Members of Parliament, and the Office of the Auditor-General.

The Pacific Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Mentoring Programme runs from 28 June to 1 July 2016.

ENDS

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