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Gillard on gender

Tuesday 28 August 2012 | Published in Regional


A multi-million dollar plan to lift the dismal rate of women holding political office in small Pacific island nations will be unveiled by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard this week.

Talks with Nauru and Papua New Guinea over the Labour Party’s bid to revive the Pacific Solution for asylum seekers will be high on Gillard’s agenda, as will plans to improve the lot of women in the Pacific.

A much-anticipated guest appearance by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Friday is also expected to reinforce the need to lift the rate of women in politics in the Pacific region, ranked worst in the world.

Despite heavy investment of foreign aid over decades, Nauru and Micronesia have no women in parliament at all and only a handful of female MPs are scattered among the rest. The Cook Islands has two female parliamentarians, following the election of Selina Napa to the Titikaveka seat earlier this year. Inter-Parliamentary Union figures show only 14.5 per cent of Pacific MPs are women, a lower ranking than in Arab countries (14.7 percent) and well behind the Americas (almost 23 percent). The Nordic states lead with 42 percent.

The worldwide average of women in parliament is 20 percent.