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Success stories must be shared with youngsters

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 20, 2009) – Educating the young generation about past and present successes by PNG women in nation-building could be the way to go if the country were serious about increasing its women’s representation in Parliament.

This was the remark by the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) student representative council president Zorah Johnwell last week at the conclusion of the one-day Papua New Guinea update seminar at the UPNG Waigani campus.

In making reference to the recent unsuccessful vote by Parliament for three women representatives, the student leader said that many people in the country still valued men as leaders traditionally.

Ms Johnwell stressed that school-aged children and youth should be exposed to and come to appreciate the leadership capabilities of women within their societies, if the gender disparity gap were to be narrowed.

"We could try putting an emphasis through widespread awareness on what women in PNG have contributed in the country’s development over the years to try to change the mindset of young people that women are capable and can make a difference as leaders," she said.

UPNG’s director for student welfare and development Garua Peni and the Australian National University’s Jon Fraenkel were the other speakers besides Ms Johnwell on the topic "Women’s representation in Parliament".

Mr Fraenkel highlighted that PNG, other Melanesian countries and Micronesian states were mostly made up of fragmented communities with fragmented political party systems.

He said this contributed to the disproportionate ratio between men and women (mostly men and less than three or no women belonging to political parties) greatly diminishing the chances of women to be voted into parliament at elections.

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