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23 May 2014

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Kops, there have been so many ill addressed and emerging development issues in PNG that affect women in ways that men don't seem to understand.

Lack of women representation at parliament level in PNG is a manifestation of men's failure to understand women as individuals who are capable of contributing significantly to improve welfare and development of families and communities at all levels of society.

There are some societies in PNG where women have ownership of land and dominate decisions. I wonder how many of them have expanded their hereditary influence to become ward councillors and LLG presidents and how many of them have been elected to national parliament in these societies?

PNG has to develop and empower institutions that will take a systematic approach to address women issues including increased representation in parliament.

The issue of women's seats eventually became a moral issue.

This was reflected in PM O'Neill's decision to allow MPs in his PNC party, and, indeed all MPs in the last Parliament, to vote with their conscience (conscience vote) on the proposed amendment to the so-called enabling law.

This was especially the case with the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments to effect the new Equality and Participation Law in the Constitution.

Angra Sil, this is a very eloquent and thorough essay on the issue of reserved seats for women. Both sides are represented and their main arguments raised.

If we take away the much flaunted argument regarding 'democratic principles', are there any other arguments against women's reserved seats?

Democratic principles are a tool for better governance, methinks, not for stiffling better governance.

If we take away the stern arguments for women's empowerment by other means, are there any other arguments against women's reserved seats?

Women's empowerment is for every woman, whether she is a village wife, a company executive or a wannabe activist-cum-politician.

Bart Philemon's question about the costs of maintaining the reserved seats is, to me, akin to asking whether it's worth spending K50 million per annum on our womenfolk: Are they worth it?

Rather ask, are we worth it? Or even better is the envisioned outcome worth it?

Bart Philemon's cost argument also seems a weak when we consider what other unnecessary (and under-the-table) items the government has been willing to spend money on, e.g. the Falcon Jet, flying Djoko Tjandra around, political perks and privileges, etcetera.

If both the male and female counterparts arguing against reserved seats would stop being emotional about it, perhaps they could see the logic that a little balance is needed in PNG's case to restore the balance of democracy - equal representation by eqaully important groups, or as near to it as realistically possible.

Yesterday Alice Walker the author of the famous book 'The Color Purple' met with Aboriginal Women in Sydney.

She said, "It is really important for indigenous women to gather in this time because of the peril that the Earth is in. Indigenous women have been the ones who have really cared about the Earth."

Miss Walker said the women had discussed the land "that's been taken from people and abused and the grief that this has caused to the people who actually love the land and who don't see the land as something to exploit but something to honour".

I'm sure there are still plenty of people in PNG who have the same outlook, but I have a feeling that there would be more women than men.

When I was in PNG it was the women who spent their days working away in their gardens. Great gardeners and great custodians of the land.

I don't know what the answer is for PNG women but it is quite obvious that, over the past 39 years, the male members of parliament have been thinking too much about making money and seem to have lost contact with their electorates and the people in them.

They have forgotten the main role of the government i.e. to collect taxes and provide public services.

The schools and hospitals built by the Australians, have been allowed to rot away and decay. I'm sure if there had been good PNG women having an equal say in the running of the country, the government schools and government hospitals would have been looked after.

At the moment there is still little sign of solving this problem. Thank you Sil for thinking of the mothers of PNG, they, and their children, have been very badly treated during the first 39 years of self-government.

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