Woman Is First Tongan Representative At Commonwealth Youth Parliament

After positive learning experience Kite plans to resurrect Tonga Youth Parliament

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Nov 18, 2016) – Elizabeth Kite, Tonga’s very first youth representative at the Commonwealth Youth Parliament (CYP) held in Canada last week says says the experience has been one of the most inspiring events in her life to date.

Around 66 young people from Commonwealth countries participated experiencing aspects of parliamentary democracy and a real-life working parliament facilitated by experienced Canadian parliamentary officials.

As a young woman in her twenties, Elizabeth currently advocates for women and youth rights in Tonga, and credits the CYP experience for broadening her knowledge of the role politics plays.

“It has exposed me to many things that compliment my current efforts in advocating for greater youth and women’s rights through my work with the Talitha Project, Tonga and other organisations,” she said.

Tonga Youth Parliament

To encourage youth and women's political participation, she plans to resurrect Tonga’s Youth Parliament, which has been on hold since 2008.

“It's necessary because we're training our future leaders and I think if we invest in these sorts of programmes and trainings now we'll hopefully see results like less corruption and things of that nature, and we'll be better equipped to address Tonga's issues,” said Elizabeth.

She added Tonga’s Youth Parliament needs to be held annually and consistently without fail and even though it is a mock parliament, it is important.

“I hope to achieve the youth parliament by next year. I hope to meet with those in charge next week sometime. I’ve made it a priority to get the youth parliament going consistently,” she said.

“It’s not just for people / youth here [Tongatapu], but from Vava’u, Ha’apai, ‘Eua, and the Niuas.”

During the CYP, Elizabeth fell ill but managed to observe parliament proceedings as a backbencher and she also sat in as Deputy Chair for the final parliament session.

“It was a great position to observe everything… also during caucus meetings I was able to put forward my ideas.”

Future political career

Elizabeth was brought up in Tonga and Australia and decided to move to Tonga permanently three years ago to work for non-governmental organisations involved in women’s rights, youth and disability.

It is her work in these minority groups that earned her the nomination to represent Tonga at the CYP and to now seriously consider a career in politics.

“The longer I stay in Tonga, the more interest I have in how Tonga is run.”

“The program [CYP] definitely confirmed my interest in politics. To be involved would be very effective in putting through what we want in getting our voices heard as well from the youth and women.”

Her greatest fear in pursuing a career as a woman in Tongan politics is “women not voting for women”.

“So that is my biggest fear - is that I won’t be supported by my fellow females. Other than that, I’m pretty ready for the challenge – to step forward and just take action.”

During the CYP, Elizabeth was inspired to see so many female politicians which she mentioned to her female Canadian counterpart.

“She was so amazed that that was an observation I made and I was amazed she didn’t notice because that was so normal to her.”

“We hope to get to that point one day. Back home it’s all men.”

Elizabeth plans to take up tertiary studies next year to better prepare herself for a political role in the future.

Recently Tonga has elected one woman parliamentarian in a Vava'u by-election where 'Akosita Lavulavu took the seat as the only female in the House.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
Copyright © 2016 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

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