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Pacific News Minute: Papua New Guinea political heavyweight endorses 4 women in parliamentary election

Papua New Guinea parliament building port moresby
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
In this Nov. 16, 2018, photo, performers in traditional dresses stand outside of Parliament Haus in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, before a welcome ceremony for Chinese President Xi Jinping. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

A political heavyweight in a South Pacific nation is endorsing four female candidates in an upcoming parliamentary election. Surprisingly, the country has had only seven female members of parliament in its nearly 50 years of independence.

Sir Peter Ipatas has been in Papua New Guinea’s parliament for 25 years since becoming the governor of Enga province. He founded the People’s party in 2006.

The Guardian reports that he is known as a visionary leader instrumental for reforms in education, health, and infrastructure.

The announcement of Ipatas’ support for four women in the parliamentary election was welcomed by many as a positive shift after the results of the 2017 elections.

No women were voted in then, making Papua New Guinea one of just three countries in the world to have no women in its parliament.

According to the United Nations, women in the country are disadvantaged in many areas of development, including politics.

The lack of women in PNG’s parliament has revived a debate about whether quotas should be introduced — reserving seats in parliament for women.

Media executive Tania Bale is one of the four women nominated by Ipatas to run on the People’s party ticket.

“It’s not a publicity stunt, it’s not a grab for headlines, it is genuinely something he has put a lot of thought and care into," Bale said. “Hopefully, the steps we’ve taken will give fortitude to other women to step forward.”

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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