“Parliamentarians are in Parliament for the people”.
It is very important that they understand their electorates and their immediate needs, the challenges they face and the ways in which they can be helped.
MPs also need to be innovative and to understand that money is not the problem, it is the way in which they get things done that may be the problem.
Therefore they are reminded to stand with their people and for their people always.”
That is a reminder to legislators from Vava’u 16 MP constituency, Hon. ‘Akosita Lavulavu when addressing a Regional Women’s Political Empowerment and Leadership Conference that gets underway in Nadi, Fiji from September 11-13, 2016.
The theme of this conference is “Innovating for Impact: A Pacific Regional Consultation on Women’s Political Empowerment and Leadership”.
The meeting seeks to assess the effectiveness of programs in women’s political participation so as to tailor more specific and relevant programs in future that would increase the representation of women in elected office.
It brings together representatives from government, electoral management bodies, NGOs and also former women parliamentary candidates in the Pacific including Tonga to share experiences and ways forward.
Speaking at the Nadi meeting, Hon. ‘Akosita Lavulavu emphasised “it is essential to support and empower women to political and leadership positions, but at the same time, not to forget the voters and their trust they have embedded in politicians.
Sharing her experience as woman parliamentary candidate during a session on Campaign Finance and Networks yesterday, one of the challenges she faced is the need to prudently utilize campaign funds in accordance with the financial thresholds in the Electoral Act.
She highlighted the importance of a network of support from her family and the people of her constituency. Most importantly, she encouraged women to firmly believe in themselves and that each obstacle faced on the way, were only stepping stones towards achieving the vision of being able to serve Tonga as a parliamentarian.
As Tonga’s only female MP in Parliament, Hon. Lavulavu firmly believes that this meeting is very timely, as the political participation of women should remain high on the agenda in the Pacific and in Tonga. Her comments came in light of Tonga faring very poorly in this area, according to the final report for the Millennium Development Goals.
She hopes to inspire more women to become female parliamentarians despite the overcast of current norms and perceptions and to explore Temporary Special Measures (TSM) as ways to promote more women in Parliament.
Issues discussed in the meeting included legislative frameworks for gender balance, harnessing the capacity of women to contest the elections political parties and gender research among others.
The sessions have so far emphasized the need for more country specific programs, despite the similar issues faced by women across the Pacific. There were also call for more consistent and long term programs to support women right from their status as candidates and throughout the electoral cyclone.
The Legislative Assembly of Tonga is grateful to UN Women for funding this important initiative as an important platform of exposure to the current and pressing issues related to Pacific women in parliament including Tonga.
This is Hon. Ákosita Lavulavu’s first official trip as a Member of Parliament following the Vavaú 16 by-election in July 2016.