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No improvement has occurred in the past 20 years

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 12, 2008) – The Pacific region has always had the lowest percentage of women in politics and is the only region that has shown no improvement in spite of almost two decades of global activism.

Community Development Minister Dame Carol Kidu said this in her keynote address at the Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development in Bangkok recently.

The meeting brought together academics, NGO workers and female politicians from the region to specifically discuss the issue of women in decision making.

Dame Carol said of the eight countries in the world which have no women members of Parliament, five were Pacific Island nations including the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Vanuatu has only two women representatives in Parliament while Tonga, Marshall Islands and PNG have only one each.

Dame Carol said contemporary culture in the Pacific still tends to be conservative and patriarchal, reflecting a colonial and missionary heritage as well as a reluctance to change a status quo which favours men politically, socially, economically and administratively.

"Even areas that are traditionally matrilineal societies, modern politics has tended to marginalise the women from their traditional power base as the custodians of the land. The imposition of traditional western models and structures of power and resource ownership has been to the detriment of women in many areas."

She said in PNG however, there has been some affirmative action including modification of electoral laws specifically integrity of political parties and Candidates in which 75% of K10,000 [US$3,823.99] is reimbursed to the political party where the female candidate obtains 10% of votes cast in the electorate in that election, as an incentive to political parties to nominate women.

Dame Carol urged women’s organisations and female politicians to use this landmark statement as leverage for affirmative action in their own countries.

She said she has achieved a breakthrough in Parliament recently when Cabinet endorsed her submission to bring four women to Parliament by 2009 by using an amended constitutional provision for nominated seats.

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