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Table 1. Progress of women’s representation at Tonga’s Legislature 1839


Establishment of Vava’u Parliamentary

Government (Vava’u Code) 1951

Women allowed to vote and stand as candidates in general elections


4th woman MP, Lepolo Mahe Taunisila (2005-2010) (Niuas Representative)


First woman MP, HRH Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu (1975-1977)

(Tongatapu representative) 2006

5th woman MP and first woman to be appointed as a Cabinet Minister, ‘Alisi Taumoepeau (Minister of Justice)

1978 Second woman MP,

Papiloa Bloomfield Foliaki (1978-1980)

(Tongatapu Representative) 2009

6th woman MP, Lady ‘Eseta Fusitu’a, appointed as a

Cabinet Minister (Minister for Information and Communication)

Emancipation of Tonga by King George Tupou I


Enactment of the Constitution of Tonga


Increase Members of Parliaments to 30

and commoners were given the right to vote.


Third woman MP, ‘Ofa Fusitu’a (1993-1995)

(Niuas Representative) 2010-

Tonga undergoes major political reform and

constitutional amendments 7th woman MP, Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki, appointed as a Cabinet Minister (Minister of Education and Training)

long event that took place from 7 to 11 April 2014 after a culmination of months of planning, organization, and awareness-raising campaigns. A Working Committee chaired by the Lord Speaker and consisting of members from key stakeholders such as the Electoral Commission, Women’s Affairs Division and the Tonga Civil Society were engaged to carry out the Practice Parliament mandate with the support of a capable Secretariat.

The programme was envisioned to instigate and encourage women’s participation in Parliament. It was also geared at helping participants to understand Parliamentary processes. It aimed to raise their awareness, interest and participation in Parliament via discussion forums and practical legislative training that was to be provided by current and former Parliamentarians and expert staff. The event was planned as one of the major outputs of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Tonga Governance Strengthening Programme (TGSP) for the first quarter of 2014. A number of international and local

donors, namely Australian AID, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), UN Women, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Legislative Assembly of Tonga, Tonga Electoral Commission and the Civil Society Forum of Tonga generously aided the PPW, either through funding or the provision of technical assistance. A national public awareness campaign was launched to advertise the objectives of the Practice Parliament and to generate dialogue throughout the country.4


programmes, radio talk shows, social media,5

public meetings,6 billboards,

brochures and posters were amongst the means employed to raise the profile of the PPW.

Lord Fakafanua was present at public meetings in Tongatapu; a clear display of his commitment to the programme. During the meetings, he encouraged women to participate in the Practice Parliament as it was the ideal platform to have their voices heard and to raise the issues that were important to their constituencies. A crucial component of these public meetings was the role of

the facilitators. For each meeting, prominent men and women from each of the constituencies were recruited as facilitators to assist in delivering the PPW objective at the public meetings.

It was realized at the outset that aside from the importance of the message, the messenger was equally as crucial so that the audience was more receptive of a familiar role model from their own respective communities. One or two facilitators per meeting spoke briefly to the audience of their experiences as women that contributed to the society at large, offering words of encouragement so that women were reminded of their value in society as future leaders of Tonga. They were also informed that the PPW was an essential platform to realize such aspirations.

The broad objectives of the Practice Parliament were: • To encourage the active participa- tion of both genders in Parliament; • To increase awareness on the importance of women’s role in a participatory democratic system

especially in light of recent political reforms; • To help Tongan women better understand the Legislature’s roles, procedures and processes; • To empower Tongan women and showcase women’s potentials for decision making when put in a near- reality Parliament setting; and • To inspire women and increase their confidence encouraging them to run as parliamentary candidates in the upcoming general elections in or- der that they become future leaders and decision makers for the country.

By the end of the month-long public awareness campaign, the Practice Parliament had received extensive coverage throughout Tonga. Based on the issues raised during the live talk shows, it was evident that the public generally understood there was a need for more women representatives and that in order to get them elected; they had to register to vote. A subject of some controversy for the public was the proposal to introduce a quota system to reserve seats in Parliament for Women.

The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three | 183

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