Since Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975, none of its parliaments have comprised more than 2 per cent of women. Efforts to address traditional attitudes in the country and support women candidates and voters have shown signs of impact, yet the political landscape for women remains a tough one.
In an interview with UN Women, two of the three women members of parliament (MPs) elected in the July 2012 polls detail the challenges they overcame on their respective campaign paths and their aspirations for a level playing field, in and out of the political realm.
Governor Julie Soso Akeke is the first woman governor from the Highlands region, well-known for its “big man” or male-centred politics. A former journalist and women’s rights campaigner, she took her seat in a close race, beating out experienced male politicians and businessmen. Minister Loujaya Toni is also a former journalist and has been actively involved in economic empowerment, HIV and AIDS and human rights works. Work among the community, they say, is often a key strength among women and can lend them a competitive edge at the grassroots level, where they believe stereotypes are best addressed.
Working through Provincial Women’s Councils and the National Council of Women, with UN Women, UNDP and UNFPA, both MP’s have actively participated in women’s leadership activities and advocacy. Both were also involved with the “Know Your Woman Candidate 2012: Vote Woman” campaign to raise awareness through media of women candidates in Papua New Guinea, supported by UN Women.