Nuku‘alofa, Tonga – September 15, 2016 The Vava’u 16 constituency MP, Hon. ‘Akosita Lavulavu is currently attending the Regional Women’s Political Empowerment and Leadership Conference currently taking place 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, to share experiences and ways forward.
Yesterday, Lavulavu was invited to be part of a session on Campaign finance and networks. In this session, she shared her specific experiences as a woman parliamentary candidate, the challenges she faced and 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 which had included 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 into parliament were only stepping stones towards achieving the vision of being able to serve her country as a parliamentarian.
‘Akosita Lavulavu says, “It is very important that you understand the people of your constituency, it is crucial that you know their immediate needs, the challenges they face and the ways in which they can be helped. You need to be innovative and to understand that money is not the problem, it is the way in which you get things done that may be the problem.
“It is essential for us to support and empower women to political and leadership positions, but at the same time, not to forget your people and the trust they have embedded in you. You are in there for the people. You need to remember to stand with your people and for your people always,” said Mrs. Lavulavu
Issues discussed in the meeting included legislative frameworks for gender balance,
Temporary Special Measures (TSM) and experiences in the Pacific, harnessing the capacity of women to contest the elections political parties and gender research.
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.
As Tonga’s only woman parliamentarian, Hon. Lavulavu firmly believes that Nadi meeting is very timely, as the political participation of women should remain high on the agenda in the Pacific and in Tonga, in light of Tonga faring very poorly in this area, according to the final report for the MDG goals. She hopes to inspire more women to become female parliamentarians despite the overcast of current norms and perceptions and to explore TSMs as a measure to promote more women in parliament.
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-elections in July.