Pacific Women in Power Forum Commences in Auckland

February 21, 2024
Pacific Women in Power Forum

Women leaders from 11 Pacific parliaments in Auckland for the 2024 Pacific Women in Power Forum.

Photo: UNDP

Auckland, New Zealand – Numbers speak volumes, and in the Pacific, they tell a concerning story: less than 7 percent of parliamentarians are women.

Serving as the impetus for further collective action, women leaders from parliaments across the Pacific have convened on Auckland for the Pacific Women in Power Forum.

The three-day forum – supported by the people of New Zealand, Australia and Japan – sees women members of parliaments as well as parliamentary officials coming together to discuss opportunities for improving women’s representation, approaches to improving inclusivity, and the effectiveness of parliaments in tackling gender inequality.  

The forum will discuss the many challenges women in politics face, including persistent online harassment fueled by the anonymity of social media; abuse that unfortunately dominates the daily lives of many women MPs worldwide.

Despite women's representation in politics still languishing as the worst in any region across the world – and progress sitting somewhere between stalled and gradual – a shift in attitudes across the Pacific is demanding change.

As noted, fewer than seven percent of Pacific politicians are women, compared to 27 percent globally. For a nation such as Tuvalu, its recent general election saw no women elected to parliament. And in Fiji, the country’s most-recent election saw just six women win seats in the house, a 10 percent decrease in representation when compared to the country’s previous parliament.

However, there are some bright spots across the Pacific. In Nauru, two of the 19 seats in parliament are held by women, and in the Republic of the Marshall Islands Hilda Heine was recently sworn in as President.

In Vanuatu, Gloria Julia King became the country’s first women elected to parliament in almost 14 years, and in Papua New Guinea Francesca Semoso recently joined Rufina Peter and Kessy Sawang bolstering women’s representation to the highest levels since the parliament of 2012.  

Deputy Speaker in the parliament of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Hon. Therese Kaetavara, said that to effectively represent its people, the composition of a parliament must reflect the population it serves.

“Under representation is not a mere statistic, it is our reality. We must appreciate each other as women leaders and learn from our unique and vast experiences. Only then can we collectively change the statistics on women in positions of leadership,” she said.

Munkhtuya Altangerel, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji, said the forum will clarify and solidify key priorities for driving future efforts to bolster women's political participation and representation across the Pacific.

“True democracy is not just about elections and parties; it is about ensuring that equal rights translate to having an equal say in society, especially for women.

“Supporting initiatives for women's political participation is vital, with the fight for the Sustainable Development Goals and realizing gender equality hinging on ensuring women's voices are heard loud and clear in our parliaments,” she said.

The Pacific Women in Power Forum concludes on 23 February.

For further media enquiries please contact:

Nick Turner, Communications and Advocacy Specialist, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. (E)