WHEN it comes to Papua New Guinea politics, it always seems to be the men’s game: a dirty little game where women don’t stand much of a chance.
That’s why you hardly hear women talking politics; because they tend to believe the position of women is the kitchen or household. Women are also often regarded as weak decision-makers. Things are changing, thanks to education, and women are coming out alongside their male counterparts.
But PNG women still face several obstacles to participation in political life due to cultural and economic barriers. Contesting against men is not easy because women do not often receive the support they need to compete. And voters do not fully appreciate the benefits of having a mix of men and women in government.
Every national election, the candidates’ posters plastered throughout the provinces show few female faces. This year there has been a slight – a very slight – increase in the women running for office: 33 more than in 2012 to make a total of 169 in a field of about 3,000 candidates.
The Southern region has 60 women candidates, then Momase with 47, Highlands with 43 and Islands with only 19.
Sixty women are contesting Central, National Capital District, Gulf, Oro, Western and Milne Bay provinces.
Central has the biggest number with 14 women candidates. Rufina Peter of the Trust PNG Party is one of three women contesting the Central Regional seat. Two sporting icons - Julianne Leka Maliaki and Iammo Gapi Launa - and another six female candidates are trying to win the Rigo Open seat, currently occupied by Ano Pala. In Goilala Open, chemical engineer Matilda Tagu Koma of the Social Democratic Party is contesting against current sitting MP William Samb and nine other men.
The National Capital District has 13 women candidates contesting four seats. Three women are contesting the NCD regional seat held by Governor Powes Parkop. They include journalist Veronica Marmei from Chimbu Province and they face 36 other male candidates. Marmei has been a journalist for 23 years and wants to make a difference by focusing on women’s empowerment and providing financial security to women.
Among the three women contesting Moresby North-West is founder and executive director of the first PNG women’s microbank, Janet Sape. The other two women trying to win the seat from Michael Malabag and 34 other male candidates are Lynnette Kerekere and Sallyanne Mokis.
In Moresby North-East, Shelley Launa of the Wings Party is one of six female candidates.
The only female likely to challenge Justin Tkatchenko, sitting MP for Moresby South. is Anna Skate of the People’s National Congress Party. She is a daughter of former prime minister the late Bill Skate who founded the People’s National Congress Party now led by prime minister Peter O’Neill. Tkatchenko is a member of the same party.
Gulf Province has 12 women candidates, seven in the regional seat, two in Kerema and three in Kikori. Maso Raka is running for the regional seat for the People’s Party citing her experience and saying that the people of Gulf have suffered far too long.
Other strong women contestants for the Gulf regional seat are Martha Kaia Manggal, Priscilla Opa Kare, Anna Hou and Elisabeth Bradshaw, who is one of two women running under the banner of the Coalition for Reform Party. She is a young, vibrant, outspoken and highly educated with experience in the oil and gas sector including ExxonMobil.
Susanah Apopo (Melanesian Alliance Party) is one of the three females running for the Kikori Open seat while Margaret Fareho and Agnes Haro Harihi are contesting Kerema Open.
Other women candidates in the Southern region come from Northern and Western provinces (eight candidates each) and Milne Bay (five).
Three women are contesting the Northern Regional seat, four women in Sohe Open and one in Ijivitari Open. Priscia Mauwe, Anista Matbob and Jean Parkop, wife of NCD Governor Powes Parkop. are the three candidates contesting Northern Regional.
Sohe Open’s sitting member Delilah Gore is being challenged by three women: Helen Porari (Paradise Kingdom Party), Maureen Duang (Pangu) and independent Alicia Toroi.
Dr Joy Travetz, wife of the current Ijivitari MP, is the only female candidate for Ijivitari against 32 men.
In the Western Province, two women are contesting the regional seat, three for Middle fly, one for North fly and two for South fly.
One of the two women standing in the regional seat is independent Elizabeth Matit. In Middle fly Erica Sama (Pangu) is among the three women and in South Fly independent Ume Wainetti is contesting against another women and 49 male candidates.
In Milne Bay, businesswoman and mother of four Gillian Torie is the only woman candidate in the regional seat. Writer Imelda Yabara and Maria Tomofa are contesting Alotau Open and Monalisa Saragum (PNG One Nation Party) and Dr Rona Nadile are standing for Samarai-Murua.
The Kiriwina-Goodenough and Esas’ala electorates do not have women contesting the elections.
Momase has 47 women contesting in Madang, Morobe, East Sepik and West Sepik provinces.
In Madang Province, 15 women are up against 253 men. Two are running for the regional seat, four for Rai Coast Open, three for Usino-Bundi and Bogia, and one in Madang, Middle Ramu and Sumkar.
Mary Yalingu Kamang (PNG Party) and Ingina Kamuti Gelua (PNG Youths Party) are contesting the regional seat and commentator Kessy Sawang (PNG National Party) is contesting against three female candidates in Rai Coast Open.
Josephine Mandawe (PNG Party) is standing for Usino-Bundi Open and in Bogia Open we have Lucy Buck and two other women. In Sumkar Lillian Paul (Model Nation Party) is the only female contesting against 36 men and Inabe Ombongu in standing for Middle Ramu.
In Morobe Province, there are 15 women candidates. Independent Sussie Moses Sonny is the only women contesting the regional seat against 24 male candidates. Her vision is to build a godly model nation to reach out to the rural areas of Morobe where services are deteriorating or not available.
Sapume Kanawi and Judy Pokana are among 26 candidates contesting Bulolo Open seat held by Pangu Party leader Sam Basil. In Finschhafen Open, Lesley Bennet is among two women contesting the seat while Monica Peter is the only female contesting the Markham Open as an independent candidate.
In East Sepik Province, Dulciana Somare (Pangu), the daughter of Sir Michael Somare is the only woman candidate contesting against 25 men. Veronica Simongun is among four female candidates contesting Wewak Open. There are also women standing in Angoram (2), Ambunti-Dreikikir (1) and Yangoru-Saussia (2).
In West Sepik Province, two women are contesting the regional seat, four women in Telefomin and one in Vanimo-Green. Florence Saki and Julie Moide are taking on the regional seat for a transformed and better developed province. In Vanimo-Green Carol Mayo is competing against 20 male candidates.
The Highlands region has 43 women candidates contesting across Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Southern Highlands, Simbu, Enga, Jiwaka and Hela provinces.
In Eastern Highlands, Julie Soso, Nina Giheno and Lillian Siwi are contesting the regional seat while Dr Susanna Khobu, Mary Pati, Sarah Shelley and one other woman are contesting Goroka Open. Salasa Moses is among other three women in Obura-Wonenara. The only female in Okapa is Serah Amukele, daughter of former MP the late Tom Amukele.
In Simbu, five women are contesting the regional seat, two are trying in Kundiawa while Chuave, Gumine, Kerowagi and Sinasina-Yongomugl all have one women contesting each seat.
Mary Maima is amongst five women in the Simbu regional contest and Lynn Aina and Joanne Tawi are seeking election in the Kundiawa Open. Christina Tumun Nime (Pangu) is contesting Kerowagi Open and Dr Susan Apa is the woman candidate in Gumine.
In Enga, academic Nancy Waiman and Linda Yombon are among three women contesting Kompiam-Ambum against Environment Minister John Pundari. Jenny Luke (Model Nation Party) is the only female candidate amongst 30 men challenging in Kandep, held by the opposition leader Don Polye.
In Jiwaka, two women are contesting the regional seat while three are standing for North Wahgi Open. Veronica Weiang is amongst the three women contesting North Wahgi.
Three women are contesting in Western Highlands Province, two for the regional seat and one in Dei Open.
Three women are contesting in Hela Province, two in Komo-Magarima and one in Koroba-Kopiago. Mary Ken is amongst the two women in Komo-Magarima while Leah Angowai is the only woman contesting the Koroba-Kopiago seat.
In the Southern Highlands, Rachel Yangu is the only female candidate and she is standing in the regional seat.
In Bougainville, five women are among the total of 73 candidates standing. They are contesting North Bougainville (2), Central Bougainville (2) and South Bougainville (1).
Former women’s representative Rose Pihei (Social Development Party) is contesting South Bougainville Open. An Independent Rachel Konaka and Elizabeth Burain (People’s Progress Party) are standing in North Bougainville while two independent candidates, Gloria Terikian and Lynette Ona, are contesting the Central Bougainville Open seat.
East New Britain has two women contesting the Regional seat and Kokopo Open. Since PNG independence, Kokopo has only had male candidates but now Cathleen Baragu is determined to break through against 24 male candidates.
There are four women candidates in New Ireland, two in the regional seat and two in Kavieng Open. Veronica Perety Jigede (PNG Human Rights Party) and Dr Kapa Kelep Malp are contesting the regional seat while Lucy Siki Aiya and Rubie Wanariu Kerepa are contesting Kavieng Open.
In Manus Province, eight women are contesting in the regional (3) and Manus Open (5). Betty Komes (National Alliance Party) and Theresa Kas, wife of Madang Governor Jim Kas, are contesting the regional seat.