Women’s Parliamentary Forum in Samoa

11 Oct 2013

image Participants at the Women's Parliamentary Forum. PHOTO CREDIT: OFFICE OF THE CLERK OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.

As an ongoing progression of the Parliament of Samoa public engagement program under the Samoa Parliament Support Program 2012-2015 (SPSP), a ‘Women’s Parliamentary Forum’ was held on the 8th and 9th of October at the Maota Tofilau Eti Alesana Building - Mulinuu, to coincide with Parliament’s October sittings. This initial forum, expected to result in the development of a framework for future activities in the lead-up to the 2016 election, was conducted with the support of the UN Gender Program.

As part of a broader programme which is aimed at familiarising interested and potential women candidates with the Parliament of Samoa, its functions and parliamentary processes, this initial two-day forum provided a valuable opportunity to deliberate as to how the Parliament can provide the required capacity building support in 2014 and 2015 in which women from the public and private sector, as well as from rural areas, can take part.

In acknowledging the inequitable representation of women in political governance, in May this year Parliament unanimously voted for the Constitution Amendment Act, ensuring that women comprise at least 10 per cent of all MPs to be elected in 2016. To extend awareness of this legislation and to build on its community engagement program, the Office of the Legislative Assembly intends to provide ongoing capacity building support to encourage participation in parliament, including by women political aspirants.

The UN Gender Programme has a similar commitment to address persistent gender imbalance and increase support for the advancement of women representation at the national level in leadership roles and decision-making positions. As the instrument for MDGs compliance by 2015, the UNDP is committed to continue as the catalyst to ensure a substantial increase of women parliamentarians in the next election.

This Programme is one of the focal deliverables developed and coordinated by the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly under the Samoa Parliamentary Support Project (SPSP) sponsored by the Government of Australia and the Government of Samoa with the assistance of the UNDP Multi Country Office. The initiative is designed to inform and encourage women by acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to enter the realm of politics or sustain interest in it; and to serve as a medium to promote and support women’s participation in the legislative process.

As the first parliamentary initiative specifically tailored for women, representatives were nominated by government ministries, corporations and non-governmental organizations to participate. The program provided them with: basic knowledge of parliamentary procedures and processes; exposure to parliament and interactions with parliamentarians to initiate and encourage interest in politics; as well as practical elementary legislative training with the assistance of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff. This forum is expected to initiate the development of a framework for future activities in the lead up to the 2016 elections and beyond.

Participants were asked to assist with formulating a framework for future parliamentary capacity building support, including for women from different sectors of the country leading up to the 2016 general election.