How adversarial politics is putting women off in the Pacific

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.

3 Comments Posted

  1. I see my post appeared to be a rant against women in parliament, that is not what I meant it to be.I agree with Kath Lauderdale’s comments. She is correct regarding the unpaid work done by women within the home and as volunteer helpers in nations like ours and as slaves is many lands where they are expected to work in the fields as well as bring up hoards of children whilst their men folk reap any profit from their endeavours. I often doubt the intergrity of women who represent right wing parties, it seems to me they are simply going along with the male view of society which today is based on money alone. My remark was aimed at such women who appear to have no connection with their poorer sisters and seem to enjoy being able to wield power. When women from minor parties, who do truly try to work on behalf of the oppressed women, their weapon against them is sarcasm and snide remarks.

  2. It would seem some women in Parliament have nothing to do but judge women from other parties by the clothing they wear. Do these catty remarks regarding another woman’s jacket or her cute two bedroomed house do anything to help the majority of struggling Kiwis?
    The men are adversorial and their women are catty.
    Let’s have an end to it we pay them to work hard for the nation its time the took their jobs seriously.

  3. I agree this is one element, albeit one that wouldn’t bother me unduly.

    Women are often working and without a great deal of support or income, in order to replace our labour, there is an insurmountable barrier to participation.

    Particularly for working class Mothers.These are the very people who probably have the most insight into community from the grassroots from experience.

    Whether lugging water or working in the local Post Shop and trying to care for children and cater to the household’s and inhabitants needs they are simply being worked too hard and with little or no reward, stimulation or encouragement of their personal needs let alone representing others.

    Even agencies purporting to assist development end up relying on the women to promote initiatives and do the lions share of the work.

    Women are the “labouring class” even within the working class…but are unpaid and unacknowledged in this endeavour. Within the class system there is only one class whose women get a voice and participation without independent financial support the voice of the vast majority of women will not be heard. Effectively slaves.

    You are certainly correct that this needs to change so thank you for raising it. It has been blamed on the men but that is not so the religious, economic and class system is to blame ultimately for the oppression of women.

    We all know women who would do a far better job in the predominantly male Parliament and not just via “pillow talk” and “behind every good man” patronising rationalisations for oppression.

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