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INSPIRING WOMEN IN SAMOA INTO POLITICS


CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM SECURES WOMEN’S FUTURE POLITICAL ASPIRATIONS IN SAMOA


A new quota system in Samoa aims to inspire more female representation in the National Assembly. However, with a likely clash between western style politics and traditional methods, implementing the Bill may not run as smoothly as is anticipated.


The Office of the Clerk of the National Assembly


Since gaining independence in 1962, the Pacific nation of Samoa has balanced traditional cultural principles and values with the need to move with the times. In the last decade, Samoa has changed its position on the international dateline; and our cars have moved to the left hand side of our roads. Our electoral system strongly reflects faa-Samoa - the Samoan way of life. In recognition of the structure of decision-making in Samoan villages, political participation in the national Legislature has traditionally been restricted to holders of matai (chiefly) titles. Until universal suffrage in 1991, only matais (whether male or female) were allowed to participate as voters or candidates in national elections. While all Samoans are now eligible to vote, a strict rule continues that only registered matais are allowed to be nominated as candidates. While women generally have equal access to the political process, they do not have equal representation as MPs. In June this year, Parliament unanimously endorsed a constitutional amendment which will see at least 10 per cent of


178 | The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three


parliamentary seats at the next election occupied by women.


Women in Samoa


Traditionally, women have been held in high regard and afforded great respect as the daughters, sisters and mothers of Samoa. They are the crux of the familial unit on which the entire community rests, and their opinions in all matters of importance hold great weight. Our history tells of women being at the helm of national decision making – serving as Queens and leading as warriors.1


kinship titles and were instrumental in forging cultural policy changes at both the village and national levels. Due to these strong traditional


They held revered


values, women have enjoyed similar leadership opportunities as their male counterparts. In most villages they are able to serve their families as matais, hold positions of importance within the church as well as high level employment roles within both private and public sectors. However, despite the innate positive cultural view of women coupled with a modern movement towards equal gender opportunities, a subtle disparity remains in regards to important decision making roles. Active female participation and membership has not extended to the national Legislature. According to Inter-Parliamentary Union data, women participation in national Legislatures in the Pacific


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