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Prime Minister to push constitutional amendment through

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 4, 2012) – The reform agenda of Samoa's Person of the Decade continues to roll along.

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepe Sailele is about to shepherd through Parliament constitutional amendments to create special parliamentary seats for women.

Under the changes at least five seats or ten percent of the members of parliament will be women.

Presenter: Brian Abbott

Speaker: Tuilaepe Sailele, Samoan Prime Minister

SAILELE: Now we only have two in our parliament following the general elections in March we had four in the last elections, and if this is the kind of trend perhaps in the next general elections there be none. And in accordance with the general support for more women in parliament we have subsequently decided to amend our constitution and all related laws to simplify the procedure and put in place a formula that will secure at least ten percent of the seats in the house for women. Our proposal is such that women representation must come from those who contested the elections, unlike other parliaments where they actually appoint the women. Our formula is one where we get the women that ballot the most percentage of the votes in proportion to the total roll to get elected to ensure that there is a minimum of five seats or ten percent of the seats in the house for women. We hope to pursue this law at our next sitting of parliament on the 17th of next month.

ABBOTT: So no extra members of parliament but ten percent of the seats will be reserved for women, is that correct?

SAILELE: Well we can only ensure the minimum of ten percent by moving the total number of seats in the house to maintain the ten percent for women. So we will move totality of MPs in parliament which necessitates an amendment to our constitution, and we do not have that problem because we have the numbers.

ABBOTT: Has the push for this reform come from women's groups, or has it come from yourself?

SAILELE: It is an initiative from within our cabinet in recognition of the embarrassment of course of the nine parliaments in the world that do not have any women representation. Six of those nine parliaments happen to be in the Pacific, that's quite an embarrassment. But of course you cannot blame the Pacific because it is indicative of the general psychology of our women in the Pacific, and I'm also speaking about Samoan women, who give priority to their role in family, of raising a family. And the women that do enter parliament are either those who have chosen to remain single, therefore less responsibilities, or those who have grown up families so that they can afford to run for parliament and take on increased responsibilities beyond those expected of them in maintaining a close-knit family. Of course it means that women that enter parliament would have much more responsibilities than the men because of that extra feminine responsibility to ensure that the children at the same time are also looked after.

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