BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
MORE than 50 incumbent, intending and aspiring women candidates filled the National Parliament yesterday for the opening of the five days “Practice Parliament for Women” program.
Tim Breese the Acting Commissioner of the New Zealand High Commission in his opening speech asked what is the value of more women in parliament.
“More women in government equal better government.
“Governments are more open, free, transparent and successful with more women,” said Breese.
Speaker of Parliament, Ajilon Jasper Nasiu, being one of the key addressors during the opening program welcomed the women participants with great enthusiasm and confidence that in the near future, together, will be breaking the glass ceiling open in Solomon Islands.
The opening program was also addressed by HE Mr. Shigeru Toyama, Ambassador of Embassy of Japan, Ms Azusa Kubota the UNDP Country Manager, as the key note address was given by the Speaker of Parliament.
“This is our place and we should be here,” said Rose Liata, participant and Provincial Minister for Women in Malaita Province.
“The only barrier is culture, and when our people are educated on their constitution and the role MP’s should be playing as helpers to their communities, the barriers will break down,” said Mrs Liata.
According to Vois Blong Mere Solomon (VBMS) in their Press Release yesterday, it is an exciting time for women’s representation in parliament as the afternoon session featured a Panel discussion with Honourable Freda Tuki and the newly minted Honourable Lanelle Tanagada.
Mrs Tanagada’s election marked first time two women having held seats, concurrently, in National parliament.
“Be the voice for the voiceless, be the one who will touch lives, be honest, be humble and maintain your integrity,” Mrs Tanagada implored the participants.
“We must be the voice for the voiceless, champions of our women and the vulnerable.”
The five days program will educate participants in election procedures, ethical campaigning, working with media, good governance, separation of powers, law making processes and Parliamentary procedures.
Practice parliament is the work of a coalition of Solomon Island’s women organisation’s as well as UNDP, the High Commission of New Zealand and Embassy of Japan.
“Women’s rights organisations, like WRAM, are preaching equality of opportunity. We want credit to be given where credit is due. We should not select a man over a woman just because he is a man,” Pionie Boso the Practice Parliament for Women Working Committee member and WRAM Program Manager said.
“Rigid gender norms, traditions, structural barriers and stereotyping have blocked gender equality for too long.”
“Our participants are strong and capable women. It is pleasing to see that we have a few young women and girls here as well, young women who are keen to learn and skill themselves for the Future.”
“Solidarity is an important factor here. By bringing these women together, we hope to strengthen their resolve to be the change so many of us wish to see in our country.”
If one would like to see the participants in action, the Practice Parliament will conclude with a public debate on the Environment Act 1988–‘RESOURCES AND INCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT’, starting 8:00am Friday at the National Parliament.