Catherine Delahunty

How adversarial politics is putting women off in the Pacific

by Catherine Delahunty

What’s holding back female leadership and representation in the Pacific?

This was the discussion point when Pacific female MPs, along with women in other political leadership roles in the region, gathered recently in Fiji. And what emerged was that one of the key barriers to women entering politics is the adversarial nature of politics.

Given the bizarre sartorial attacks on our female co-leader last week (which would be enough to put most woman off entering politics), I can strongly relate to those who feel a more collaborative and respectful political culture would inspire more women to stand for public office.

Women are drastically under-represented in Pacific politics – just 4.7% of the region’s representatives are female. In some Parliaments there are no women at all. So it was great to hear that Pacific women leaders intend to keep meeting, to support each other as they work for increased representation and a more positive political environment.

New Zealand and Australia might be numerically better, but we’re still stuck well below genuine equity. One third of our current Parliament is female and only one Australian Cabinet Minister is female.

As well as concluding that politics would be more attractive if it were more collaborative and supportive, the women who gathered in Fiji discussed how women bring a powerful commitment to nonviolence in countries that have suffered war and social breakdown. Rwanda is a case in point, but also Fiji, where Fijian women leaders have been working across political lines for a genuine democratic state.

Let’s listen to the voices of these women who remind us politics is not a blood sport, but a responsibility to represent our communities. Political leadership should not be dominated by males or people prepared to savage each other for votes. I am proud to be Green because we work hard not to descend to personal attacks and we agree that more women would be willing to commit to politics if a culture of respect was the norm.

Published in Justice & Democracy by Catherine Delahunty on Mon, February 3rd, 2014   

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