15 Jul 2015

Interpretations of traditions discourage Samoan women from parliament

7:47 am on 15 July 2015

A new report says the modern interpretation of some local traditions in Samoa is discouraging women from becoming community leaders.

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Photo: RNZ / Mary Baines

The National University of Samoa report says women are as well educated as men but have never held more than five out of the 49 seats in parliament since the country gained independence in 1962.

It says the traditional village system has been organised around separate gender roles with authoritative roles dominated by men.

Associate Professor Penelope Schoeffel says this makes it difficult for women to become, or be seen, as national leaders.

"In some electorates there are villages that don't allow women to have matai titles and in Samoa if you want to stand for parliament you must have a matai title. So in electorates where women are not recognised by the village, if it's a populous village, they don't have much chance."

Penelope Schoeffel says Samoan culture is flexible but changes still need to be made to ensure women are better represented in government.