Seventeen women from a diverse range of backgrounds gathered for the start of Tuvalu’s second Women’s Practice Parliament.
Deputy Prime Minister, H.E. Maatia Toafa, in his opening remarks spoke on the importance of carving out a space for women in politics. He confirmed the government of Tuvalu’s commitment to gender equality, noting that, while great improvements had been made in sensitizing Tuvalu’s laws and policies, more must be done to get women into decision-making positions.
“Only if we are open towards an environment that offers the same chances for men and women to become Members of Parliament, or active parts of our local government, the Kaupule and Falekaupule, only then we can ensure women’s affairs will be heard at the highest level,” said Toafa.
Coordinator of the National Council of Women, Pula Toafa, expressed her sincere appreciation to the Tuvalu Parliament and to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for their support of this important event. She also commended the Gender Affairs Department for its outreach and advocacy, stating that this workshop was yet another step on the road towards gender equality in Tuvalu.
UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji’s Effective Governance Team Leader, Dyfan Jones, said that this is the first time Tuvalu’s Practice Parliament welcomes participants from the outer islands. He highlighted UNDP’s commitment to gender equality and confirmed its continued support for women’s political participation throughout the Pacific.
“The idea of facilitating Practice parliaments for women was first proposed in 2010, at a Pacific Islands Forum Small Island States Meeting on “Advancing Women’s Participation in Decision Making Processes”. The Practice Parliaments are designed to fill some of the gaps in the existing efforts to support women’s political participation by developing a broader set of skills and by giving women participants the opportunity to immediately apply those skills,” said Jones.
The 17 women participating in this Women’s Practice Parliament were selected by a Steering Committee made up of representatives from the National Council of Women and the Department of Women under the Prime Minister’s Office.
Petesa Taukelina Finikaso, a young woman from Funafuti, shared her excitement about the live mock session.
“I will be a little nervous, I think. But I’m doing my research. I am interviewing a government official on Tuvalu’s migration policy because I want to make strong points during the live debate. I want to be prepared.”
Itagina Moeaga, from the island of Nukufetau, said the training was a great preparation “to stand up in parliament, and be strong as a woman”.
The Women’s Practice Parliament Programme consisted of a two-day training on good governance practices and parliamentary procedures, delivered by the Parliament Office with the support of former and active Parliamentarians. Relevant government departments also delivered briefings on key policy topics, including climate change, gender-based violence and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Participants also took part in a mock parliament session, broadcasted live on Tuvalu national radio. The participants debated a mock bill, the ‘National Climate Change Education Act’, drafted for this purpose in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labor. Following the mock parliament session, the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Otinielu Tauteleimalae Tausi, delivered his closing remarks.
The week long initiative was organised by the Tuvalu Gender Affairs Department and the Parliament of Tuvalu in partnership with UNDP and supported by the Australian Government.