UNIFEM GEPG Empowers Elected Members of Parliament of Vanuatu

11 October 2010

Over 40 of the 52 elected members of the Vanuatu Parliament attended each day for five days a second of its kind BRIDGE Gender and Elections Module Workshop for the Member of Parliament in the Pacific from 20 – 24 September 2010 in Vanuatu’s Port Vila Palms Resorts and Casino funded by UNIFEM [Part of UN Women] Gender Equality in Political Governance Programme (GEPG). A similar workshop of this kind was a one day workshop conducted on 11th December 2009 for Members of Parliament of the Republic of Kiribati. The MPs workshop was a partnership of Vanuatu Parliament, Ministry of Justice and Community Affairs responsible for the portfolio of women and the Gender Equality in Political Governance (GEPG) Programme of UNIFEM, Part of UN Women.

Participants included the Speaker of Parliament, Hon George Andre Wells, and the deputy speakers, Hon Philip Boedoro, and ministers of Finance, Hon Sela Molisa, Education Hon Charlot Salwai and Youth and Sports Hon Ralphael Worwor. The Leader of Opposition and one of two remaining long serving elected members and former Prime Minister 1991 – 1997, Hon Maxime Carlo Korman who also was first Speaker of Vanuatu National Parliament 1980 – 1987, and Deputy Leader of Opposition and formaer Prime Minister, 2004-2008, Hon. Ham Lini Vanuaroroa. Amongst other backbenchers were young and outstanding elected MPs: Joshua Kalsakau; Ralph Regenvanu and all other members of all the eight political parties who are members of the sitting coalition government and several independent members. Hon Jean Ravo, Vanuatu former Ambassador to the UN and Hon Eta Rory – woman Member of Parliament.

The workshop was opened by the Hon Speaker of Parliament Hon George Andre Wells and was closed by the Minister of Justice and Community Services, Hon Bako Kaltonga. Also attending the workshop was the Clerk of Parliament Mr. Lino Saksak, The Private Secretary to the Speaker, Mr. Arnold Bani, Deputy Clerk of Parliament, Mr Charlie Harrison and other senior staff of the National Parliament.

The team of facilitators comprised: Jeannette Bolenga (Accrediting/Lead Facilitator) and UNIFEM Regional Deputy Programme Manager of Gender Equality in Political Governance Programme and Vanuatu workshop Facilitators: Ms Grayleen Lapi (Vanuatu National Coordinator of GEPG Programme), and freelance gender advocates and male champions for women’s increased political participation and representation: Gary Tavoa; Morris Emboi; Kilip Semu and David Tovorvur (Deputy Secretary General of TAFEA Provincial Government).

Similar workshops conducted by UNIFEM GEPG in Vanuatu in 2010 after the International Train-the-Facilitator (TtF) workshop in Lonnoc Resort, Santo Vanuatu from 26 October – 6 November 2009 were four (4) five (5) day BRIDGE Gender and Elections module for: Kisule Village, Tasmalum Community, South Santo – 15 – 19 February 2010, Luganville Municipal Council, Santo – 22 – 26 February 2010, Malo Constituency, Santo 1 – 5 March 2010 and Tanna for TAFEA Province elected councilors and community leaders from 17 – 21 May 2010. At least close to 200 citizens ranging from elected members of Parliament, ministers of state, elected councilors, sitting lady mayor, traditional chiefs, women leaders, pastors/priests, youth leaders have been empowered by BRIDGE methodology by participating in the Gender and Elections module delivered by UNIFEM GEPG in rising awareness on the importance of gender equality in governance to advance women’s participation in and representation in politics.

Facilitators’ Say: “An inspiring and very exciting and empowering workshop for the participants and facilitators.” By midweek there was recognition by participants that gender issues often associated by mainstream population including elected leaders as referring to women issues was recognized as a national governance issue that requires government and all stakeholders to discuss, identify and develop strategies to overcome the gender disparity at all levels and in all areas of work. Members of Parliament urged each other to think out-side-the-box, beyond their political affiliation and begin discussions for change. The quotas debate on Day 4 saw members voting in favour for the introduction of 30% reserved seats and quotas within the political parties as a form of positive discrimination or measure to advance women’s participation and representation in decision making at all levels including national Parliament.

Participants” Say: Well here it goes…………”he recent BRIDGE Gender and Elections Workshop held at Palms Resort and Casino few weeks ago in Port Vila, for elected members of Vanuatu Parliament was certainly stimulating with great enthusiasm and of course high level of expectation achieved by all colleagues present during the five days of absolute brainstorming to understand gender equality and the advancement of Vanuatu women as equal partners in governance and development”…..

Civilization does indeed create wider knowledge and freedom to those under democracy as we do have the bill of rights reflected in our Constitution, thus I strongly believe ultimately and definitely that there is no excuse at all, to crush woman out of our unique society from leadership roles, from bottom down to the highest level nationally. There is no reason for unfair treatment and total negligence. “As national leaders we must recognize and accept that power does belongs to the powerless and that includes our woman too”

BRIDGE does teaches us to eliminate and eradicate our very unhealthy attitude of seeing woman as inferior to men and encourages us to actually approach our woman in far better way and to give our woman the awaiting true sense of respect and equality and that I believe clearly defines the true spirit of how civilized our men are towards our woman and that will surely uphold our constitution with never ending flying colours in regards to Gender and most of all our motto of….” LONG GOD YUMI STANAP” (In God we Stand)

“Respectfully, one could easily come up with a lame excuse and define it otherwise as being problematic, but BRIDGE Gender & Elections Workshop should and must be Highly Commended for the extreme determination of sending the message across so professionally that one could easily understand and fully agree with every word said and told.”

As legislators and also policy makers let us all quit pretending and in due course as leaders be more prudent to over come all excuses and obstacles created only by ourselves to our community especially our woman. The workshop has empowered us to now “walk the talk ” The greatest respect for all my fellow colleagues (despite different believes and customs) is the recognition and one common understanding and that is to avoid being obstinate and prepare our own road map for our own fruitful destiny ………LONG LIVE VANUATU

“To conclude I solemnly believe in CHANGE’ and that change is the sincere acceptance of GENDER EQUITY……All praises and honours and overwhelming appreciation by all fellow participants to the BRIDGE Gender & Election workshop facilitators for their great encouragement and professionalism……JOB WELL DONE ….BRAVO ! ! !.”

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