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Media’s role in political gender equality vital

Thursday 13 August 2015 | Published in Regional


APIA – Journalists, students and potential political candidates are taking part in a seminar in Apia to help them play their part in increasing the number of women in parliament at the 2016 election.

A two-day workshop on gender-sensitive election reporting for National University of Samoa journalism students was organised by the The Increased Political Participation of Women in Samoa organisation, followed by a one-day workshop on the same theme with professional journalists on Friday.

Political parties and potential candidates have also been swatting up on political processes, including the 2013 constitutional amendment guaranteeing 10 per cent representation of women in Samoa’s Legislative Assembly.

The Pacific has the world’s lowest rates of women in parliament – an average of just 5.5 per cent – and this is reflected in Samoa.

Just three women are currently in parliament, which means Samoa ranks 126 out of 138 countries worldwide in terms of female re representation.

In the 2011 election, just eight of the 162 candidates were women.

Increasing women’s participation in leadership and decision-making has been proven to be good for overall economic and social development, according to studies.

And studies have shown that it has a particularly marked effect on women’s overall participation in the labour force, their share of public employment opportunities and access to public goods such as roads and health services.

The programme is focusing on awareness raising, capacity building for women participating in the parliamentary process, and providing information and training to political parties ahead of the election.

It also includes post-election mentoring support for all members of parliament on subjects such as gender-responsive budgeting and gender-sensitive legislation.

Coordinator Gatoloai Tili Afamasaga says increasing women’s political participation in Samoa relies on a shift in attitudes around the roles women can and should play in politics.

“There is a tremendous amount of leadership potential among Samoa’s women, and they have a right to a voice in parliament.

“These workshops provide an opportunity to share information and resources, answer questions, provoke discussion and encourage change.”

UN Women’s Country Programme Coordinator for Samoa, Suisala Mele Maualaivao, says as an essential source of information, the media plays a critical role in shaping attitudes around the importance of women in parliament.

“Newspapers, television and radio reach so many people, even in remote areas, providing an invaluable opportunity to ensure that communities are exposed to the full diversity of candidates and the issues they stand for, as well as to start conversations about gender equality across the country.

“We must also not forget social media, which provides a loudspeaker for groups beyond the traditional channels.”

The Increased Political Participation of Women in Samoa (IPPWS) is a joint programme between UN Women and UNDP, in partnership with the Government of Samoa and the Australian Government launched in March this year.