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Proposal to set quota allowing more women in office

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, February 13, 2009 ) – Women’s voices are rarely heard in the Tongan parliament, where only five women have entered the House in the last 35 years. But a group of Tongan women meeting today agreed that unequal representation has to change.

Over 50 women met today at the Langafonua 'a Fafine Tonga to advance women's political representation in Tonga.

The Langafonua are proposing that a quota be set-aside for women in the Tonga Parliament under the new system of government being developed for 2010.

Polotu Fakafanua Paunga of the Women's Affairs Division of the Ministry of Education said the primary objective of the consultation was to discuss their proposal that will be submitted to the Constitutional and Electoral Commission before the deadline on February 23.

"That is to set aside quotas for women in the Tonga Parliament."

Details on how many the women representatives are looking at will be confirmed later.

Polotu said that the next step will be drafting their written submission and gathering signatures from the various women's organisations attending, and then a follow-up meeting will be held next week.

Attending the first Consultation Meeting today were representatives from the Catholic Women's League, the Anglican Church and other church and community groups.

The Secretary General of Langafonua 'a Fafine Tonga 'Uheina Kalaniuvalu said they had invited various women representations from community and church women's groups they are affiliated with.

"This is a good thing for women because it has been long since our voices are heard in Parliament," she said.

"Since 1975 there have only been five women representatives to Parliament, including first woman appointed as Cabinet Minister Hon 'Alisi Taumoepeau."

The Electoral Commission requires signed submissions from the public be made by a group of no less than 200 people aged over 21 years.

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