ONLY FEMALE MINISTER IN TONGA SPEAKS OUT

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Dr. Taufe’ulungaki among most experienced

By Josephine Latu NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Taimi Media Network, Jan. 5, 2011) – In Tonga, out of the new ministers in Cabinet, the only woman amongst them has the most patent experience in her own portfolio. Minister for Education, Women’s Affairs and Culture (MEWAC) Dr ‘Ana Maui Taufe’ulungaki (64) spent more than 30 years in Tonga’s education system as a teacher and an administrator, and is a former Pro-Vice Chancellor for Graduate Affairs and Research at the University of the South Pacific.

Besides academics, she had a direct hand in the nation’s political reform process as a member of both the National Committee for Political Reform (also known as the Tu’ipelehake Committee) in 2006, as well as a commissioner of the Constitutional and Electoral Commission in 2009. While she declined to run in this year’s elections, she was secretary of the women’s group ‘Fakatouhama’, aimed at providing financial and moral support for the women who did.

Tonga Chronicle/TMN caught up with Dr. Taufe’ulungaki on her way to the evening church service today for some quick comments on a few pressing issues.

Her views:

On her appointment as minister: "It will be quite challenging but at least its something I do know about. I’ve spent my whole life in this field, in preparation for today. I am one of the more fortunate [new ministers]. I know quite a lot of people in education. We’ve recently done consultations will all teachers in Tonga on the challenges they face teaching in the classroom, so I would say I’m at least well-equipped for my task."

On being the only woman in Cabinet: "I find it quite easy to work with male colleagues. I don’t see myself only as a woman but someone who can contribute to the development of our nation. Being a man or a woman doesn’t really matter. But I think I do bring certain strengths that all women are born with, and that’s the ability to multitask and focus on the important issues while taking care of other responsibilities as well I am ready to voice the concerns of women who make up more than half the population of Tonga."

On her plans for MEWAC: "My first priority is to provide leadership for the ministry to give it a new direction and focus on its activities. In general though, we all wish to improve the quality of education for Tongans and return it to the high standard it used to enjoy in the Pacific. I think the [ministry's current efforts to focus more on skills-based technical education] is all good, but I wouldn’t call it ‘technical and vocational training’. I’d call it ‘sustainable living education’. It’s trying to provide young people with tools to be able to conduct their lives in sustainable ways."

On gender-specific concerns in the department: "I want to redress the underachievement of boys. It’s not girls who have the problems in school it’s the boys that struggle, and it’s not a trend that’s unique to Tonga. We see it all over the world. I think it’s also related to some of the social issues we have in Tonga.

On getting selected by the Prime Minister instead of elected into parliament: "I’m regretful that I did not run in the election, but I had no intention of doing so. But when I was called for this position I thought yes, I will take it up. I could at least make a small contribution to the country."

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