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INSPIRING WOMEN IN SAMOA INTO POLITICS


Left: The National Assembly of Samoa; This page: A women’s committee on Manono Island, Samoa, addressing its community’s development challenges.


region ranks amongst the lowest in the world with an average of 12.8 per cent occupying seats in unicameral Parliaments.2


The


Constitutional Amendment Bill was formulated not only in response to the current Samoan political climate but as a means of alignment with international obligations. A member state of the United Nations since 1976, Samoa has committed itself to the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals which prioritizes the empowerment of women through political participation.3


Since 1992,


Samoa has also been party to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).


Over the years, the Samoan political arena has proven to be an unfavourable environment for women. Although accounting for almost half of Samoa’s population,4


their current


representation in Parliament is a mere 4.08 per cent (two women MPs) out of a total of 49 elected members of Parliament.5


The 2006 general


At the subsequent 2011 election, of the 159 candidates, five were women candidates and only two were re-elected.7


elections saw the largest number of women to have ever entered Parliament: of 218 matai candidates, 18 were women and four were elected.6


The implementation of quota systems has been on the rise in


recent years, particularly within the Asia-Pacific region.8


While similar in


their overall goal of promoting female participation in politics, different Pacific states have tailored the application of their quotas to suite their individual needs. In Samoa, debate focused primarily on finding equilibrium between the promotion of gender parity and upholding the inextricable faamatai governing structures by which Samoa rests upon. According to the Prime Minister, Hon. Tuilaepa Fatialofa Lupesoliai Aiono Neioti Sailele Malielegaoi who introduced the Bill, the introduction of the “women’s quota” as a temporary measure seeks to change the electoral trend outlined above, and


redress the issue of political gender disparity.


The Constitution Amendment Bill 2013 in action


Clause two of the Bill amends article 44 of the constitution and provides that 10 per cent of parliamentary seats following the 2016 election must be occupied by women. The adopted gender quota is based on a flexible formula. Currently there are 49 seats within Parliament; however, if at the 2016 elections no women candidates secure seats via general votes, the amendment will be activated and an additional five seats will be added to increase Parliament’s membership to 54.


The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three | 179


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