By Cynthia Richie Terrell on August 31, 2018
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There is still a need to reserve parliamentary seats for women in Papua New Guinea, a candidate in last year's general election says.
Legislation to create 22 reserved seats for women in addition to parliament's current 111 seats failed to be passed six years ago.
Since then, the number of women MPs in PNG has gone from three to zero.
Esther Igo was one of 167 females, or five percent of total candidates, who stood unsuccessfully for parliament last year.
The former candidate for the Wewak Open electorate said the existing process disadvantaged women's representation in leadership.
"Because of the disparity in how wealth is being used, how corruption is used, how all the other elements that are being used by men to actually dominate and to gain their votes into parliament, I support the reserved seats because it opens up that opportunity for women to be heard," Ms Igo said.
Soon after returning to power as a result of last year's election, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said he wanted to bring the proposal to reserve 22 seats in parliament for women back for debate.
But the appetite for such a move appears limited among the current batch of MPs. Parliamentarians' focus this year has been on other legislation as well as preparation for hosting APEC.
PNG's international partners had been pushing the matter in recent years, but the need for re-evaluation of the problem remains pressing after last year's return to ground zero in terms of female representation in parliament.
"There's a lot of talk. We have the UN, we have AusAID, we have a lot of (people) coming and talking about helping women to actually stand for elections.
"But really at the end of the day, I see our male counterparts - when we actually go as the candidates - they have so much money to play around with. In comparison, women would have one-tenth of what they have, what they're playing around with."
Ms Igo, who is a representative of the NGO Women Arise, pointed to the voting system, the way people campaign, and the prevalent mindset around elections, as being part of the problem.
"There is no voice for 52 percent of this population (women). The 52 percent of this population, when we women stand for elections, unfortunately because of the fear they have, men drag them to actually vote for men."
But for Ms Igo reserved seats still loomed as a sensible way to ensure women had a voice in parliament.
"Men and women have different psyches and mentality, and they look at community development very differently," she explained.
"Men would probably look at development in a very physical way, whereas women would look at it more in the (sense of) social, emotional and bringing up family.
"That's the balance that is required in parliament that we don't have today. It's very one-sided. And like every other thing, when you have a boat that is one sided, it's bound to capsize."
Political parties in Solomon Islands are being urged by Helen Clark to support women planning to contest national and provincial elections next year.
Miss Clark, a former head of the United Nations Development Programme and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, is in Solomon Islands this week speaking with women, youth and national leaders about leadership, political participation and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
While she acknowledged Solomon Islands had a weak political party system, Miss Clark said she believed having a party's backing would be a huge boost for women candidates.
"Because if they embrace the idea of greater women's participation they can make it happen through their selections," Miss Clark said.
"So I am hoping there is going to be a meeting of minds between the women who want to become elected members and the political parties seeing the point of having more women's representation."
Aspiring women candidates had told her that competing with the cash fueled election campaigns of men was the biggest impediment to their political aspirations, Miss Clark said
"Firstly, around the world old girls networks have less funding than old boys networks.
"Secondly, in Solomon Islands the campaign spending limits are not really enforced.
"The third issue here is what are called the constituency development funds. Where sitting members of parliament have rather large sums of money to disburse. So there are some structural issues like that that need attention going forward," she said.
Miss Clark will also help to launch the Solomon Islands' National Youth Strategy during her three day visit.
Engaging youth was key to bringing about positive change in the country, she said.
"The demographics of the Solomon Islands are very young. You have got roughly two thirds under the age of 30. So getting youth interested in the forthcoming elections and having their say, having a voice, getting engaged, debating issues this is very important for the future of the Solomons."
Last year Panama joined the list of countries that have established quotas as a mean for reducing the gender gap. Law 56 of 2017 creates a women quota of 30% on corporate boards of public entities and certain private entities. The Law was recently regulated through Executive Decree 241-A of 2018.
This Law applies to Central Government entities, Decentralized Government entities, state enterprises and mixed capital companies, as well as to companies regulated by the Superintendency of Banks, the Superintendency of Insurance and Reinsurance, the Superintendency of Capital Markets (SMV for its initials in Spanish) and the Panamanian Autonomous Cooperative Institute.
According to the regulatory decree, the purpose of the quota is to give priority to the candidate of the less represented gender if they have the same qualification as the candidate of the other gender in terms of experience, merit, competence and professional performance.
Mixed capital companies
Regarding mixed capital companies, although the Executive Body is in charge of appointing women to meet the quota -taking into consideration aspects such as their preparation and professional experience- the representatives of private equity shall also seek the participation of women on corporate boards.
In compliance with Law 56, regulated entities shall provide in their corporate governance manuals, good practices related to the designation of board members based on criteria of gender equity, merit, experience and in accordance with the requirements of each industry.
To verify compliance with the law, the regulated entity must submit an annual questionnaire to its respective regulator and publish this information on its website as well. It is important to highlight that the law does not provide sanctions for not complying with the quota, but the regulatory decree provides that in case of non-compliance, the company shall give the explanations thereof.
It should also be noted that Law 56 does not affect the current composition of corporate boards, instead it applies gradually to new designations of members being required to meet a 10% quota in July 2018, a 20% quota in July 2019, until reaching a 30% quota in July 2020.
According to information from the SMV, in 2014 out of 744 positions of companies' boards listed on the Panama Stock Exchange, only 75 were occupied by women, and the percentage of women in boards of Panamanian capital companies in the banking sector is only 4%. It was not until 2014, after 110 years of existence, that the National Bank of Panama elected a woman for the first time as a member of its board of directors.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2017 of the World Economic Forum, with 0 representing disparity and 1 representing parity, Iceland leads the list with 0.878, Nicaragua is in the sixth place with 0.814 and Panama is at number 43 with 0.722, above the United States in the 49th place with 0.718. These statistics show that Panama is no stranger to this challenge. Gender equality is precisely one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, a commitment undertaken by Panama.
According to Klaus Schwab, Founder of the World Economic Forum, "Gender inequality deprives the world of a huge resource of untapped talent at a time when it is so important to address the enormous challenges and the disruptive forces we face".
Faced with this situation, various measures such as gender quotas have emerged. Panama has joined the list of countries that have established quotas, such as Iceland, Norway and Finland (leaders in gender parity). In Latin America, countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay have also created laws with some type of quota.
The tangible positive results that diversity brings -not only of gender- are indisputable, including increasing performance, profitability and competitive advantages. The World Economic Forum estimates that the world GDP could increase by $5.3 trillion dollars by 2025 if it closed the gender gap in economic participation by 25% over the same period. This shows that it is not only necessary, but also convenient, to increase the participation of women and achieve gender parity.
In a ranked choice voting system, voters rank candidates from most to least preferred at their polling places instead of choosing just one to support. The candidate with the least votes is eliminated—and the second and third choice votes from those who ranked them first are distributed as appropriate to the candidates left standing. The process repeats itself until one candidate is the clear winner of the majority of votes.
Ranked choice voting challenges candidates to fight not just to be someone’s first and only choice for a position, but to be someone’s second or third as well. The system is meant to encourage candidates to form partnerships, and it pushes candidates to try and appeal to a wider variety of voters.
The alliance between Kim and Leno was not a defect of the ranked choice voting system—it was an asset. And its other features led to Breed’s historic victory.
“[Breed] was able to get second and third choice in communities who may not have wanted her first but were certainly willing to rank her second or third,” Cynthia Richie Terrell, a founder of Representation2020 and FairVote, explained to Ms.
Kim and Leno, meanwhile, bridged divides in their own party in the process. “That kind of civility,” Pedro Hernandez, deputy director of the group Fair Vote California, told The Atlantic, “instead of those two candidates knocking each other down, was exactly what ranked choice was made to do.”
The ranked choice system also creates new potential for a diverse range of candidates to see successes up and down the ballot, and it gives an unusual boost to feminist candidates. Because candidates in ranked choice elections succeed by reaching more voters—not just the people they know will agree with them—and have the potential to work in tandem with one another, personal attacks and bitterness could go by the wayside over time as well. Both features make the new system a perfect fit for the rise in women candidates nationwide.
“Women candidates, perhaps because they’re new to the political system, are less afraid seemingly to say to say hey, if I’m not going to be your first choice I hope I’m gonna be your second or third choice,” Terrell told Ms. “Constituencies may know that they helped put a candidate over the top, even if they don’t have a strong enough base of support to elect a candidate of their own—which is a good reason to have ranked choice voting in general, even if it doesn’t pertain specifically to women.”
Civility in elections, partnerships between candidates and new potentials for feminist candidates alone are features powerful enough to rock the political landscape—but this kind of reframing of our election system may also increase voter turnout and actually ease the confusion that faces voters making zero-sum decisions in crowded elections.
Maine has become the latest state to adopt ranked choice voting; across the country, cities like St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Santa Fe, New Mexico have also elected to do so. It would be naive to say that ranked choice voting in these regions alone will solve America’s voting crisis, or that the new system alone could do so—there remains much work to be done to combat voter suppression, gerrymandering and stagnation in civic engagement. But in due time, ranked choice voting could provide an opportunity for a wider variety of candidates—and voters—to make the political campaigns they want to see in their communities more possible.
The Minister of State with responsibility for local government, John Paul Phelan, plans to introduce a scheme which will provide funding for an equality officer for parties who have at least 30pc female candidates contesting next year's elections.
But the head of the National Women's Council of Ireland, Orla O'Connor, has hit out at the Government for failing to show leadership.
"We have seen gender quotas work at a national level so why not introduce them at local level. Why is there this reluctance?" she said, writing in today's Irish Independent.
She said with the referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment and the upcoming referendum on the place of women in the home, there is a "real momentum for change".
"But we need the Government to show leadership on this issue," Ms O'Connor said.
"Soft measures don't bring about the change that's needed," she added, while noting that the funding for equality measures were welcome but should be introduced in tandem with mandatory quotas. "It isn't going to deliver the change that's needed, the pace is far too slow at local level. In 1999, women represented 16pc of those elected and in 2014 that was 21pc so we've had 5pc since 1999," she said.
However, the minister defended the move and said party funding cannot and will not be linked with local elections.
"The quotas worked in the general election because there was a big stick hanging over the parties in terms of their funding, and parties' funding is not now nor will it be dependent on the vote that they get in a local election, so therefore we don't have that stick hanging over them," he said.
The Government has yet to decide a definitive plan for how it will promote gender equality in the coming elections but the minister plans a fund of up to €500,000 for his proposed scheme and other initiatives, such as continued funding for non-partisan advocacy group Women for Election, which works to boost female participation in politics.
The plan will not be a flat-rate scheme but will be linked to the number of women parties run, with the threshold set at a 30pc minimum.
"It would be an amount based on the parties reaching 30pc and secondly the number of candidates who are actually running," Mr Phelan said.
While the details have yet to be ironed out and are subject to Cabinet approval, it is planned that any cash incentive scheme will be linked with the official quotas and the limits will rise in line with the national thresholds.
Gender quotas were in place for the 2016 general election which saw the number of women TDs elected hit a record high, with 22pc of seats filled by female politicians.
Under the quota system, parties risk losing State funding if they do not field at least 30pc female candidates. That threshold will rise to 40pc in 2023. In the 2014 elections, 196 women were elected to county council seats nationwide.
The election also saw an increase in the number of women put forward for election.