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Parliament training for women in Kiribati

Parliament training for women in Kiribati

5th August 2011

Thirteen women from Tarawa and seventeen women from the outer islands of Kiribati came together today at the Maneaba ni Maungatabu (Parliament) for a 3-day parliamentary training for potential candidates in advance of the imminent 2011 National Elections. The training will be followed by a 2 day Mock Parliament for Women from 8-9 August, the first ever such initiative in the Pacific region.

In the Keynote Address, the Speaker of the National Parliament of Kiribati, Hon Taomati Iuta, told the participants: “There is no reason why women should not aspire for political positions as it has been proven that women now, in the 21st century, are quite capable of holding positions of responsibility that were once considered to be only the domain of men. In my opinion, one of the most important barriers now is actually that women do not believe in themselves and in the things they are capable of doing. This notion must be overcome and it is hoped that this training and Mock Parliament will be a first step to that end.”

Hon. Iuta encouraged the women participants to make the most of their opportunity to engage in the Mock Parliament.

“Women here have a big responsibility – not only for their families, but for their village, their island and indeed for Kiribati as a whole. After all, it is said that “the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.” With that in mind, I encourage you women to go forward in whatever you wish to do without fear or a second thought. I wish you great success.”

The idea of a Mock Parliament for Women draws on the very positive experiences that have been reported from recent youth parliament forums, including the youth parliament held in Kiribati in early 2010. The idea was first raised in 2010, at a Forum Smaller Island States (SIS) Meeting on “Advancing Women’s Participation in Decision Making Processes” where delegations endorsed the convening of a Mock Parliament for Women in their respective countries. Kiribati is the first country to pilot the concept in the region.

“Mock Parliaments have been shown to provide a practical forum to expose participants to the realities of policy-making and parliamentary engagement. Noting the challenges that Pacific women have faced in getting elected into parliament by voters, it is important to support concrete initiatives that will assist women to more effectively engage in political decision-making processes. This Mock Parliament is one such idea,” said Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

In the Pacific region, women are still very under-represented in national parliaments. Four countries have no women in Parliament (Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, FSM and Nauru) and five countries have only one woman in Parliament (Vanuatu, PNG, Tonga, Marshall Islands and Cook Islands). Kiribati currently has only 3 women in parliament out of the 44 elected seats in parliament.
“We want the voice of our women to be heard, especially in our highest national decision-making bodies. We have only had a few women in Parliament, but we need more voices. This training and Mock Parliament is just a first step, but we hope that it encourages more women to stand for elections so that their voice can be heard for the improvement of our country,” said Mr Depweh Kanono, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs at the opening of the training today.

The training and Mock Parliament for Women is being spearheaded by the Kiribati Parliament and the Kiribati Department of Women. It is supported by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

During the 3-day training, which will run from today, 4- 6 August participants will be trained on key parliamentary procedures, as well as substantive policy issues of relevance to the Kiribati people. The third day of training will then specifically focus on the upcoming elections, with sessions explaining the electoral processes, as well as training on campaigning and on engaging with the media. Participants will then get a chance to apply the knowledge they have gained during the Mock Parliament which will be run from 8-9 August.

Ms Charmaine Rodrigues, regional parliamentary specialist with the UNDP Pacific Centre in Suva, is working with Kiribati partners and Forum Secretariat to support this initiative.

“While a range of training opportunities have been provided to Pacific women, it has been a criticism that these have not often resulted in concrete impacts in terms of leading to women actually engaging in parliament processes. This activity seeks to directly address that concern by specifically training women on parliamentary engagement, and then immediately providing them with a forum to apply the skills they have learnt, said Ms Rodrigues.

During the 3-day training, Members of the current Kiribati Parliament have generously offered their time to participate as resource people so that women participants can learn from their experiences. The training has been designed to expose participants to the practical challenges of both campaigning and of parliamentary work – the end goal for successful candidates.

Kiribati will be holding national elections in the next few months. It is anticipated that this training will provide an initial opportunity for potential women candidates to develop their campaigning and public advocacy skills. It is an also an opportunity for the broader community to be encouraged to reflect on the importance of supporting the inclusion of more women in decision-making positions in Kiribati.

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