DEMOCRACY is founded on the participation of both men and women in political, economic and social spheres in society, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) spokesperson.
Miss Brigitte Filion says citizen’s participation of both men and women is the concept of a modern Parliament and the promotion of gender equality has been one of IPU’s main endeavours.
“It has now become one of the pillars of IPU’s five-year strategy. For us, gender equality is therefore central to achieving better parliaments and stronger democracies,” says Ms Filion.
She adds in the 20th century, one of the greatest changes to democracy around the world was women’s participation in politics, both as members of parliament and as voters.
Ms Filion asserts that this development has put gender equality at the forefront of the work of political actors. It is an issue that concerns not only women, but parliaments as whole.
The Nuku’alofa meeting was also informed that many countries have made progress in enhancing women’s participation in the political sphere, such as in Saudi Arabia.
“As one of the most conservative monarchies in the world, Saudi Arabia has recently appointed 20 percent of women members to its Parliament. “I am proud, that my region – Africa - and specifically East Africa, tops the list, with Rwanda boasting 64 percent women’s representation in parliament, ranking number one in the world. In my country, Uganda, women account for 35 percent of the seats in Parliament,” said Ms Filion.
Meanwhile the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly says that Tonga's Parliament has planned a Mock Parliament for women in March 2014 in Nuku’alofa.
Lord Speaker Fakafanua revealed this when he officially opens the fourth Pacific Parliaments regional workshop this morning at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre.
In his keynote address Lord Fakafanua stated that Pacific Islands Tonga included, have the lowest female representation in politics with the exception of French Polynesia.
In that regard, the Lord Speaker advocates candidacy training for women and for both men and women to work together as there are more female registered voters than men here in Tonga.
At the moment, there is one female politician in Tonga, that is the Hon. Minister of Education who is a non elected member to Parliament. According to the Tongan Constitution the Hon. Prime Minister can elect up to four non elected members to the House that is if necessary.
The Pacific Partnerships Meeting which is jointly coordinated by the Inter Parliamentary Union, Tongan and the Australian Parliaments focuses on theme “Modern Parliaments: The Pacific Perspective.”
Ms. Filion also highlights the key principles of the Universal of Human Rights as one of the most powerful guiding documents of our time. That is “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
“The Declaration makes it clear that rights are conferred by governments; they are the birth right of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are. The mere fact of being human beings entitles us to these rights. And because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them,” reminded Ms Filion.
The IPU spokesperson also adds that the main task for our generation is to finish the great unfinished business of the 20th century, EQUALITY FOR ALL.
“That democracy is there to ensure that every human being is treated equally,” according to Ms. Filion.
The meeting was also informed that IPU is fully committed to supporting parliaments and parliamentarians in all parts of the world in their efforts to articulate and effectively address these challenges.
“As part of this process, the organization (IPU) is very pleased to be involved with the parliaments of the Pacific region. We undertake to assist you in fulfilling your mandates and responding to the needs and aspirations of your constituents.
We are doing this because we believe that Parliaments are at the heart of democracy and that their views are crucial to all key governance, social, cultural and economic questions of our time,” said the IPU spokesperson.
In addressing the gathering, the Lord Speaker acknowledged with gratitude the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Australian Aid, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships for joint funding of the two day event.
Lord Fakafanua also called on participants to network and get to know each other during the next two days.
“We are here as one Pacific and I believe meetings like this offer more than support for regional cooperation,” said the Hon. Speaker.
The workshop runs until tomorrow, November 8th 2013.