Cook Islands Speaker: More Women Politicians Needed

Rattle says Samoa parliamentary seat quota system is working well

By Rashneel Kumar 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Nov. 1, 2016) – The Speaker of the Parliament Niki Rattle says there is a need for more women politicians in the Cook Islands.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand’s Dateline Pacific, Rattle said women need to change their thinking about adopting a quota for reserved seats in Parliament.

She said the quota system adopted by neighbours Samoa was working well.

Rattle added many local women think they should be elected on their own merits.

The Cook Islands currently has four women politicians in parliament

They include opposition coalition leader Rose Brown and Democratic Party MPs Ngamau Munokoa, Selina Napa and Tetangi Matapo.

“The woman members have said to me, ‘oh we're all right, we've got four women members in parliament’.

But in 2015 we celebrated our 50th year of self-governance and in 50 years still, the most we've ever reached in a 24-member parliament, is only four women. You can't tell me we're all right. So it's not acceptable,” Rattle told Dateline Pacific at a workshop she attended in Wellington.

“Traditionally, a member of parliament has been seen to be a man's role. It’s been a male's role for so many years but I think the appetite is out there for women to come and get involved at that level of decision-making.

“So it is important that we do something more than what we've always done.

“Now as we've heard, Samoa has now put a system in, they've amended their constitution, they've now gone with temporary special measures and they're finding it's working for them.”

Rattle said there were a lot of barriers to break down in order to get women in politics and eventually in parliament.

She said in the traditional way of thinking, women do not vote for women because they are supporting the men in their families.

“I do believe there is a shift of thinking and I do believe it will all change.

But the women need to make that move in standing because if you don't stand, then the opportunity is not there.

“Women do need to change their thinking about voting women in, they don't support women.”

Rattle said increasing the number of women in Parliament would help bring light to a wider spectrum of issues affecting the nation.

“I see the difference it would make is that women come with the everyday needs in the household, the feeding of the children, looking after the money to buy the shopping, the availability of water and clothing, the children's education. When somebody gets sick, mum is looking after the children.

“So when you look at it socially, health and education and our water sanitation, and all those kinds of things, women have a lot to contribute.

There are a lot of things that women can bring to balance out the thinking because you know, men talk about the roads, and the buildings and the machinery and the wharves, all necessary things, but you do need that different viewpoint.”

Cook Islands News
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