PRESS RELEASE - Funafuti, Tuvalu, 13 May 2010 - Tuvalu should consider developing legislation to introduce two new seats in the national parliament which shall be reserved for women.

This was one of the recommendations made by participants at the conclusion of a two-day national consultation in Funafuti, Tuvalu on "Promoting Women in Decision Making". The Consultation is organized by the Department of Women, with support from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the UNDP Pacific Centre.

Around the Pacific, more and more countries are considering introducing temporary special measures to promote women's participation in their parliaments. The Pacific has the lowest number of women parliamentarians of any region in the world, and four countries - including Tuvalu - still have no women in their national parliament.

The Federated States of Micronesia have a Bill in the National Congress which proposed the establishment of four new seats to be reserved for women, one seat for each State. Papua New Guinea has also just gazetted a Bill to reserve 22 seats for women in the national parliament, one for each of its 21 provinces and one for the National Capital District.

Participants at the national consultation considered a range of options to promote women in their national parliament, as well as in their local councils. They agreed that the Government should work towards legislation to introduce two reserved seats for women by the time of the next elections (after the 2010 election). These seats would be voted on by everyone, and the women elected would represent all of the people, not just women.

Mr Kakee Kaitu, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Home Affairs which has responsibility for women's affairs, indicated that his Ministry will now work to progress the recommendations.

"For reserved seats to be introduced, it will first be necessary to put up a paper to our Development Coordinating Committee (DCC), which brings together all of our Permanent Secretaries. The Department of Women will have the lead in developing that paper. If and when the DCC endorsed the proposal, it will then be presented to Cabinet. If Cabinet endorses reserved seats for women, legislation will need to be prepared by the Attorney General Office and will then be presented to Parliament for consideration."

A number of recommendations were also made for long-term strategies to address the low level of women's representation in decision-making, including undertaking awareness raising activities with island communities, as well as public servants and current members of parliament. Capacity building for women was also identified as a priority.

Ms Saini Simona, Director of the Tuvalu Department of Women, indicated that these priorities will be progressed by the Department, in collaboration with other government and non-government partners.

"We strongly support introducing reserved seats for women as a short term, temporary measure to ensure women's voices are included in national decision-making forums. However, we are also focused on long-term strategies to ensure that women have the confidence and capacity to successfully run for open parliamentary seats in the future. We will work with the men and women of our communities to build support for women in decision-making."

The outcomes and recommendations from this workshop will feed into discussions at a sub-regional workshop that is being organized by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in partnership with UNIFEM and the UNDP Pacific Centre for Pacific Island Forum Small Island States to develop a sub-regional action plan on women in political empowerment. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the PIF Small Island States received funding for this project under the UNIFEM Catalytic Fund.