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Pacific mentoring programme helps women MPs share experiences

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Four women members of Parliament from the Pacific are in Wellington this week to build relationships with New Zealand Parliamentarians and learn more about advocating for women.

Fiji’s Opposition Whip Hon Salote Radrodro, Niue’s first-term MP Hon Mona Ainu’u and Tonga’s returning MP Hon Akosita Lavulavu, who was the only woman in Tonga’s previous Parliament, and new MP Hon Losaline Ma’asi, are taking part in the Pacific Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Mentoring Programme.

The Pacific, excluding New Zealand, has one of the lowest rates of female political representation in the world, although gains are being made.

Hon Akosita Lavulavu is the first woman MP to be re-elected into Parliament in Tonga. She said the small group made it easy to share experiences.

"I particularly appreciated meeting my fellow sisters from our Pacific Parliaments so we can share the ways we can work. I am also grateful we could meet the Prime Minister, the Speaker and Minister for Pacific Peoples and had the opportunity to work with other New Zealand MPs and listen to their experiences."

Hon Mona Ainu’u, who has been an MP in Niue for five months said the programme had exceeded all her expectations.

"We’ve learned from MPs from New Zealand and also from the Pacific. We face very similar issues on different scales. We are small in population but huge in heart and passion. For my constituency, this is the first time they have had a woman in the seat in 100 years and this has helped me to understand my role as a woman MP, and learn tips to take home to a very male-dominated environment to help me progress. I’ve learned the key is to be passionate, hard-working, have integrity, be helpful and stop stressing!"

The two-day mentoring programme aims to help the Pacific MPs establish meaningful long-term relationships with New Zealand women MPs and give them an opportunity to learn from each other. It also covers practical strategies and skills to help them improve outcomes for women and girls in the Pacific.

The aim is to give the MPs a safe space to ask questions, share concerns, and enhance their confidence and skills to advocate for women in an often male-dominated environment.

New Zealand women MPs from both sides of the House are leading workshops on how to campaign and negotiate, represent a community effectively, handle abuse, criticism and set-backs and work with the media. The participants are also meeting with Prime Minister, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Trevor Mallard and Minister for Pacific Peoples, Hon Aupito William Sio and the Pacific Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Hon Salote Rodrodro said one of the speakers inspired her with words about how to handle setbacks.

"She said water eventually breaks down rocks, water will find its way even if you want to stop it. Challenges will come, but if you are passionate you will get there in the end."

Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) was formed in 1989. It provides a unique forum for women parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to come together and work towards increasing women’s participation in Parliament, act on gender-related issues and make sure gender is considered in the development of policy and legislation. It is organised into nine regions including the Pacific, to which New Zealand belongs.

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