Prior to general elections in March, the Increasing Political Participation of Women in Samoa (IPPWS) program – a joint program between UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Government of Samoa and the Australian Government, through Pacific Women – jointly funded a successful mock parliament on January 20 as part of efforts to increase women’s political participation.
The activity was linked to achieving one of the main objectives of the IPPWS program, which is Building the Capacity of Women in Parliamentary Processes and Procedures in Preparation for the Elections. The mock parliament was the first of its kind to be held in Samoa for women candidates leading up to the elections.
The event was organised and implemented by the Samoa Parliament/Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly in partnership with the IPPWS and the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development of Samoa and UNDP Pacific Centre. The Office of the Clerk did an excellent job of including all the normal activities, procedures and processes of parliament. Fifteen women candidates contesting in the elections took part in the debate.
The program included a debate on the 2013 Constitutional Amendment and a questions and answer session with the Speaker of Samoan Parliament, Mr La’auli Leuatea Schmidt.
The mock parliament was a great learning experience for the candidates and clarified many parliamentary issues that were unfamiliar to them prior to the debate.
UN Women’s Ms Suisala Mele Maualaivao commended the event: “the value of mock parliaments is often understated. As a female candidate who may be new to so many procedures involved with taking on such a high level role, having the opportunity to practice as it were, is the opportunity to make perfect. The smiles on everyone’s faces is proof in how much all enjoyed and learned from it.”
The candidates were trained on Standing Orders of Parliament and processes of moving a motion, addressing the Speaker and making intervention.
Leading up to this, other trainings were undertaken last year as part of this capacity building component facilitated by Dr. Elizabeth Weir, parliamentary specialist and former MP from New Brunswick, Canada and Mr Dyfan Jones, parliamentary specialist, based at UNDP Pacific Office in Suva
Mr Jones congratulated the women candidates’ part of the mock parliament: “It is the best that I have seen in the Pacific and I was present at all other mock parliaments held thus far,” he said.
Article prepared by DFAT, Samoa Post.