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suggestions for implementation, including a separate voter’s roll for women candidates. Such a suggestion was determined to not only be outside the scope of the Electoral Commission’s financial capacity, but also as lacking Cabinet approval, and was therefore disregarded. It was determined that current electoral rolls as used in the 2011 election would be sufficient to facilitate the proposed quota. Following the lengthy committee process, a positive report was finally tabled in support of the quota system and despite initial strong opposition; the Bill was eventually unanimously passed by Parliament.14

must be struck between conventional customary traditions and western style democratic principles. It was noted that these restrictions have been in place since Samoa’s Independence13

and the introduction

of a women’s quota would not necessarily present significant changes to the current status quo. It was recommended that these sensitive issues be brought to the forefront for continual dialogue between relevant Ministries and local village councils to seek a median ground for interested women candidates within these particular villages.

Another concern related to the impact of the difference in constituency sizes was that they may produce unfair results. Six constituencies, with a larger pool of registered voters, have two seats, and it was asserted that candidates running from smaller electorates (fewer than 1000 voters) would have an advantage over candidates representing two seat constituencies. The Office of the Electoral Commission alleviated this concern by foreshadowing plans to split two seat constituencies for future elections, in an attempt to facilitate the implementation of the women’s quota. Other submissions contained

Looking towards 2016 With the Constitution Amendment Bill now officially an Act of Parliament, its impact remains to be seen; should more than five women be elected in 2016, the Act will lose its immediate relevance. In the meantime, efforts are being made to ensure that all Samoans, including potential women candidates, are aware of the Act. A coordinated effort by Parliament, the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly and other relevant donors and stakeholders has been set in motion with the initiation of an annual Parliamentary Women’s Forum which took place on October 8 – 9 at the Legislative Assembly precincts. The programme was envisaged to instigate and encourage women’s participation in Parliament and its inherent processes by raising women’s awareness of interest and participation in Parliament, via discussion forums and practical hands on legislative training provided by Parliamentarians and expert Secretariat staff.

This is a necessary first step to ensure that any and all potential candidates are afforded the opportunity to fully engage with Parliament and learn of its functions, roles and processes in an enabling, supportive and party neutral environment. As noted earlier, the quota system is a temporary hard measure aimed at inspiring women representation in Parliament – but

its overall success and future sustainability depends on the ground work implemented prior to the 2016 general elections. Perhaps the future of women’s political representation in Samoa can be best summed up by Samoa’s longest serving woman Parliamentarian, Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa, MP, who stated that the quota is a preliminary platform to catapult women into mainstream politics with the hopes that sufficient momentum will be achieved in the future to realize a healthy, permanent woman membership in Samoa’s Parliament.15

Essentially, the utilization of the women’s quota is Samoa’s attempt to promote a more inclusive and diverse political landscape to reflect the importance of all of its citizens, both male and female.


1. In particular, Nafaua, Samoa’s famed histori- cal guardian and goddess of war and Queen Salamasina who was the Supreme Monarch of Samoa and the Tutuila Islands during the 15th Century. 2. IPU (2013) “Women in National Parlia- ments”, Inter-Parliamentary Union Database [Online]. Available at: wmn-e/arc/classif311211.htm. [Accessed: 31 August 2013]. 3. UN (2013) “UN Member States, United Nations” [Online]. Available at: http://www. [Accessed: 18 Septem- ber 2013]. 4. Women comprise 48.4 per cent of the total population - approximately 188,000. Samoa Bu- reau of Statistics (2012) “Population and Hous- ing Census Analytical Report” [Online]. Available at: content/article/30-samoa-statistics-glance. [Accessed 31 August 2013]. 5. IPU (2013), “Samoa Fono (Legislative Assembly) – Last Elections”, Inter-Parliamentary Union Database [Online]. Available at: http:// [Accessed 30 August 2013] 6. IPU (2013), “Samoa Fono (Legislative As- sembly) – Elections in 2006”, Inter-Parliamenta- ry Union Database [Online]. Available at: http:// htm. [Accessed 31 August 2013]. 7. Inter-Parliamentary Union, “Samoa Fono (Legislative Assembly) – Last Elections.”

Available at: reports/2351_E.htm. [Accessed 30 August 2013]. 8. UNDP (2012) “UNDP offers six-point plan to fast-track women in Politics in Asia-Pacifc,” UNDP [Online]. Available at: http://www.undp. org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/ pressreleases/2012/09/20/undp-offers- six-point-plan-to-fast-track-women-in-politics- in-asia-pacific/. [Accessed: 19 September 2013]. The report further states that reserved seats and legal gender quotas have been implemented during the last decade in almost a dozen Asia-Pacific nations, with a UNDP study indicating that from those countries, the number of women elected to Parliament rose at a faster pace as compared to those who had not yet implemented such measures. 9. For amendments to be made to the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa 1960, there must be a minimum of a two thirds majority vote. Given that the current ruling party makes up much of that percentage, there was no apparent necessity to take the issue to the public by way of referendum. See Article 109. 10. Tavita, T. (2012) Samoa PM: “No Need for referendum on women’s bill,” Le Savali, 15 February 2012. [Online] Available at: http://www. [Accessed 7 September 2013]. 11. Electoral Act 1963, s5 and s5 (3A) per 2009 Amendment. 12. UN (2012) “Samoa meeting obligations while balancing position of women with gradual advances in political participation, delegation tells anti-discrimination committee”, Commit- tee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (press release). [Online]. Available at: wom1919.doc.htm. [Accessed 27 August 2013]. 13. These taboos have been upheld for numerous reasons which do not, in the Samoan cultural context, subjugate women – but rather uphold their traditional role as the family or clan “Taupou” (maiden) whose first priority is to offer support to her brother, husband or father as the head of the family or clan. In essence, it is therefore believed that first preference should be given to male family members to receive matai titles. 14. For further reference, refer to Parliamentary Paper 2013/2104 No.10, “The Justice, Police & Prisons and Land & Titles Committee Report on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2012”. 15. Tupufia L. (2013) “Minister praises new law”, Samoa Observer, 27 June 2013. [Online]. Avail- able at: legal/5607. [Accessed 5 September 2013].

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