7 Dec 2017

Pacific women MPs inspired by New Zealand PM

4:25 pm on 7 December 2017

Pacific women MPs visiting New Zealand this week say meeting prime minister Jacinda Ardern was a real inspiration for them.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Photo: AFP

The delegation included MPs from Tonga, Fiji and Niue who met with the prime minister on Tuesday and also sat in on question time as part of their visit to parliament.

Some Pacific countries have the worst levels of women's representation in parliament in the world.

None of Papua New Guinea's 111 MPs elected in June are women, Solomon Islands has only one woman in a 50 seat parliament and Tonga just last month elected two women - the first time its parliament has had two women at the same time.

Tonga MP Akosita Havili Lavulavu in Wellington for a mentoring programme by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Pacific Region.

Tonga MP Akosita Havili Lavulavu in Wellington for a mentoring programme by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Pacific Region. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Both of those MPs were part of the delegation visiting New Zealand this week and one of them Akosita Lavulavu echoed the sentiments of her colleagues from Fiji and Niue after a meeting with the prime minister on Tuesday morning.

"What I learned from her is you know you have to be yourself. She is herself and she has got everything prepared and she is ready to move New Zealand to a better place. And she is my inspiration as the youngest female MP in parliament she is a role model to me and not only to me but also to other women and I believe her experiences what she shared with us is something we can take back home," said Akosita Lavulavu.

From left to right: Niue MP Mona Ainuu, Tonga MP Akosita Havili Lavulavu, Fiji MP Salote Radrodro, and Tonga MP Losaline Ma'asi.

Pacific MPs attend a Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians mentoring programme aimed at sharing practical strategies with the participants. From left to right: Niue MP Mona Ainuu, Tonga MP Akosita Havili Lavulavu, Fiji MP Salote Radrodro, and Tonga MP Losaline Ma'asi. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

New Zealand's assistant parliamentary speaker and Labour MP Poto Williams met with the Pacific delegation today.

She said women MPs in New Zealand have a vital role to play in supporting current and aspiring women leaders in the Pacific region.

"It is not just about being members of parliament it is also about being clerks and it is about being speakers and its about you know flooding those spaces with women to create women friendly environments. When you have got parliaments around the Pacific where they have one or maybe no women its really really difficult to bolster the numbers because the infrastructure and the social infrastructure just isn't there," said Poto Williams.

Labour MP and Assistant Speaker Poto Williams.

Labour MP and Assistant Speaker Poto Williams. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

At least two of the group are first time MPs, Tonga's Losaline Ma'asi, in particular, said it was only her second week in the job and being able to observe the New Zealand parliament in action and speak to her counterparts in Wellington was an invaluable experience.

"You know I admire the fact that there are a lot of women in the New Zealand parliament and that is something that we look at. Because there is, so far there is only two of us and you know we have been working on a bill for TSM for the women but we are hoping to get some progress on that," Losaline Ma'asi said.

Tonga MP Losaline Ma'asi

Tonga MP Losaline Ma'asi attends a mentoring programme by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians in Wellington. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Fiji's Salote Radrodro who is the whip for the opposition SODELPA party agreed with her Tongan counterpart on the need for temporary special measures for women and said she was constantly advocating for a version tailored to Fiji to be introduced.

"We really need to have more women in parliament and like the prime minister Jacinda said to us, we women we tend to look at issues quite differently from men. And I also in my experience from the last three years. We are kind of more sincere and we are very genuine in our intentions in terms of political issues," said Salote Radrodro.

Fiji MP Salote Radrodro in Wellington for a Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians mentoring programme.

Fiji MP Salote Radrodro in Wellington for a Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians mentoring programme. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

The Pacific delegation's visit was organised by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, which aims to increase female representation and mainstream gender issues in all parliaments, and inspiring women like Mona Ainuu a first time MP in Niue is an important part of that.

"What I have got is that I have to work hard, I have to be strong I have to be confident in myself. So I think just learning to be encouraging to be inspiring to others and also not to make promises if you can't deliver them, " Mona Ainuu said.

Niue MP Mona Ainuu in Wellington for a mentoring programme by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Pacific Region.

Niue MP Mona Ainuu in Wellington for a mentoring programme by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Pacific Region. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Organisers of the visit said the Fijian and Niue MPs returned home on thursday but the Tongan MPs chose to stay a few more days to study parliamentary processes.

A similar programme for Pacific women MPs is already being planned for next year.

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