Record Number of Women Candidates in Vanuatu Elections

Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2012

VANUATU

With just hours, excitement is building up in the small island country of Vanutu as they gear for the elections day this morning.

The public campaigns came to a stop at mid night on Saturday after two weeks of aggressive campaigning which saw both men and woman candidates and their supporters driving through the streets of Port Vila with loud speakers calling out for support, holding rallies around the country, posters and banners covered every public notice boards while the media exploded with election promises.

While all this seems all too familiar to the elections countdown, this year’s election is different to the past. A record number of 17 women are contesting the Vanuatu General Elections while their male counterparts make up a total of 337.

As the capital slowly prepares itself today, a group of women gather outside Port Vila strategizing. This includes the former Chief Executive Officer of Vanuatu Women’s Council Jenny Ligo, her campaign manager and assistants who are planning how they will spread themselves around Port Vila to monitor election results. Ligo who is contesting for the second time, is among the five women contesting under the Port Vila constituency.

Ligo says she has high chances of winning a seat because she stands for the basic needs for people.
“Everyone campaigns against corruptions, promotes accountability and transparency etc but I had to change my strategy from the last time because people need their basic needs to be met including housing and employment.”

“I have had a lot of support from the community and I am sure I will do well. At this elections, I have faith that at least two women will make it to parliament. If I win, I will be with those who form the government.”

Former Minister Hilda Lini is also making a come back into politics after some time serving as a development worker in the region. Lini who hails from Pentecost accepted a last minute request by her chiefs from the Vanuatu Malvatumauri Council to be a candidate for this year’s elections. Lini who was instrumental in the development and adoption of the Conventions of the Rights of the Child in Vanuatu during her term in the 90s is running as an independent candidate.

Speaking at a public rally on Friday in Bislama, she said that her focus is on improving health services something that she initiated when she was last in government as this is a major need for the people of Vanuatu.

Ligo, Lini, and Maryanne Bani who are contesting as independent candidates along with Vanuatu Kristen Demokratik Pati’s Wendy Himford and former journalist Letty William of the Vanuatu Labour Party will be up against 44 male candidates today for the six seats under Port Vila Constituency. Some of these male candidates include former Vanuatu Prime Ministers Barak Sope, Sato Kilman and Maxim Kalkot Korman and former ambassador to China Willy Jimmy.

This year, a total of 13 female candidates have been fielded by political parties marking a significant support for women as leaders by the political party groups which includes the Vanuatu Labour Party, Vanuatu National Party, Melanesian Progressive Party, Vanua’aku Pati and Vanuatu Kristen Demokratik Pati. This year 32 political parties have fielded candidates.

The last parliament had one woman MP, Eta Rory who is re-contesting this year out of 52 MPs and since Independence 1987 a total of only five women have been elected to national parliament. As the poll closes today, the world will soon find out how many of these 17 women were successful.

Vanuatu has been a democracy for 32 years and women are playing significant roles in both, the civil service and public sector. However, women’s under-representation at national, provincial and local level is often cited as resulting from embedded cultural and religious constraints and a lack of available educated and interested women ready to stand for public office. 

Unofficial results will be available at the end of the day.

Meanwhile the United Nations Women is optimistic that the work conducted in the past few years to educate and promote women’s involvement in parliamentary governance will see a marked improvement with women being elected into the Vanuatu parliament.

Through the Gender Equality in Political Governance project, UN Women with funding from AusAID has conducted a series of capacity building with relevant stakeholders in politics in the past five years. This is in support of enhancing women’s political participation through Bridge Gender and Elections training for Members of Parliament, Election commission staff, Department of Women staff, women NGO’s, chiefs and community leaders, the media and etcetera. It has also provided support on political reform options to the Government.

UN Women wishes to acknowledge the support it has received from development partners which include AusAID, Centre of Democratic Institutions, the Pacific Leaders Programme and the Department of Women in training women candidates on electoral issues.

(For further enquiries on this release, please contact Sainiana.radrodro@unwomen.org).