23 Aug 2018

Helen Clark urges Solomons parties to support women

10:14 am on 23 August 2018

Political parties in Solomon Islands are being urged by Helen Clark to support women planning to contest national and provincial elections next year.

Election officials assist a women preparing to cast her vote during the 2014 elections.

Polling station staff direct a woman preparing to cast her vote in the 2014 national election in Honiara. Photo: RNZI Koroi Hawkins

Miss Clark, a former head of the United Nations Development Programme and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, is in Solomon Islands this week speaking with women, youth and national leaders about leadership, political participation and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

While she acknowledged Solomon Islands had a weak political party system, Miss Clark said she believed having a party's backing would be a huge boost for women candidates.

"Because if they embrace the idea of greater women's participation they can make it happen through their selections," Miss Clark said.

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Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

"So I am hoping there is going to be a meeting of minds between the women who want to become elected members and the political parties seeing the point of having more women's representation."

Aspiring women candidates had told her that competing with the cash fueled election campaigns of men was the biggest impediment to their political aspirations, Miss Clark said

"Firstly, around the world old girls networks have less funding than old boys networks.

"Secondly, in Solomon Islands the campaign spending limits are not really enforced.

"The third issue here is what are called the constituency development funds. Where sitting members of parliament have rather large sums of money to disburse. So there are some structural issues like that that need attention going forward," she said.

Miss Clark will also help to launch the Solomon Islands' National Youth Strategy during her three day visit.

Engaging youth was key to bringing about positive change in the country, she said.

"The demographics of the Solomon Islands are very young. You have got roughly two thirds under the age of 30. So getting youth interested in the forthcoming elections and having their say, having a voice, getting engaged, debating issues this is very important for the future of the Solomons."

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands was farewelled by thousands of Solomon Islanders some with placards reading "Tagio Tumas RAMSI" which translates to 
"Thank you so much RAMSI" in Solomon Islands Pidgin.

Solomon Islanders gathered at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara to farewell the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands in June of 2017. Photo: RNZI/ Koroi Hawkins