PM Congratulates Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Essay Competition Winners

Prime Minister Sogavare, centre, Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ajilon Nasiu, far left, and officials from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, United Nations Development Programme and European Union with the winners of the 2016 Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Essay Competition.

Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare has congratulated the winners of the 2016 Secondary School Competition on Women’s Leadership and Political Participation.

The winners are Melinda Houhou of Bishop Epalle for the Female Junior Category, Don Creflo Kekegolo of Coronation School for the Male Junior Category, Alena Ramo of Betikama School for the Senior Female Category, Javen Lilivae of Mbokonavera School for the Senior Male Category, Judy Saelea for the Teachers’ Female Category and Simon Wanekwaliu Mau of Kilusakwalo School for the Teachers’ Male Category. A total of 44 students and teachers participated in the competition administered by the United Nations Development Programme with funding support from the European Union and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

All prizes awarded to the winners consist of a certificate, laptop as well as pens, key tags and t-shirts promoting Women’s Leadership and Political Participation.

The Prime Minister conveyed his congratulatory message at the Award Ceremony for the winners held at the Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel in Honiara this morning.

The competition is the product of collaborative vision and effort by the United Nations Development Programme, Ministry of Education and Human Resources and the Electoral Commission.

Whilst applauding all participants in the competition, the Prime Minister said, “To those who emerged as winners of this year’s essay competition, I offer you my sincere congratulations.

“Your success in this competition has obviously come about as a result of your articulation of the views you have on Women in Leadership and Political Participation.”

However, the Prime Minister added that, “You must stand for more than that. You must find your own place in promoting the change you have written about, the change we now speak of, the change our nation demands.

He said parliaments worldwide are 22 percent female, the Pacific 15 percent female and Solomon Islands less than two percent stressing that the need for change cannot be anymore over-emphasised by these figures.

Prime Minister Sogavare said when we (Solomon Islanders) give ourselves to ‘truly’ re-examining the systems that govern our country and our lives as Solomon Islanders, we cannot deny the degree of discrimination that these systems pose between men and women.

“Our Constitution which although establishes the independent sovereign nation of Solomon Islands and provides the basis upon which we can rightly claim to be a democratic country, could not foresee the insurmountable challenges to gender equality that our women and girls face in the present generation.”

“Our electoral system which although provides the basis by which we qualify those we choose to lead, and those we grant the authority and confidence to serve our people, has struggled to change the trend of inequality in Parliament, and failed to subdue the marginalization of women in politics;

“Our parliamentary system which although stands as the symbol of democracy and representative government in this country – is unable to evolve as other systems have evolved in their endeavor to ensure that men and women participate equally in shaping the direction of this country;

“Our traditional and cultural systems which although is the bedrock of our identity as Solomon Islanders and the foundation upon which every Solomon Islander views the world, sadly reinforces the notion that Parliament is the domain of the patriarch.”

Within this context, Prime Minister Sogavare said the Solomon Islands Government has made some progress in addressing the issue of women’s participation.

“In 2015, the Solomon Islands Government with the support of the United Nations Development Programme hosted the Regional Conference on Women’s Leadership and Political Participation in Honiara, which saw the attendance of numerous experts from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Bouganville, Vanuatu and Samoa.

“That conference provided the platform to discuss how we as a country, as a government, as civil society, as youths and emerging leaders can map the pathway towards the empowerment of our women and girls.”

The Prime Minister said a number of resolutions were made at the conference and they were as follows:

  • All actors must acknowledge that women’s exclusion from national politics in Solomon Islands is a systematic problem that must be addressed;
  • The Government must review the National Parliament (Electoral) Act, Political Parties Integrity Act and even the National Constitution to provide a legal framework allowing political participation of women;
  • The Government must further review the Provincial Government Act to avail space for women to contest elections and contest successfully;
  • That a systematic mode of awareness and education programmes aimed at transforming attitudes and behaviour of Solomon Island citizens towards girls and women be urgently developed; and
  • The consideration of the introduction of curriculum on good governance and civic rights and responsibilities.

The Prime Minister said to achieve long-lasting and meaningful change in Solomon Islands political leadership, the government must take the lead in enhancing women’s capacity to lead and participate in politics with the collective support of all its stakeholders which includes donor agencies, media, non-government organisations and civil society groups.