8 April 2022
Aus-PNG Network: Podcast series - Women in politics in PNG
In this special Women in Politics series for the Australia-PNG Network, the Lowy Institute's Jessica Collins sits down with prominent women from Papua New Guinea to discuss the deep-seated challenge of women’s political representation in Papua New Guinea in the lead-up to its national election in 2022.
In this first episode, Jessica speaks with Theresa Meki – an expert in Papua New Guinean women’s political representation – about the experience for women trying to enter politics in the country, where no women are currently serving in the national parliament. They discuss the realities and challenges of campaigning, including how vote-buying and clientelism, traditional obligations, reciprocity, patriarchalism and legacy candidates contribute to the uneven playing field for female candidates.
Theresa tells Jessica there have been years wasted in between elections to work on the problem. “We only talk about women when it's election time … And I think that's the issue. There was a whole five years that more things could have been done.”
In the second episode of the series, Jessica speaks with Vagi Hemetsberger, co-founder of the Seven Sisters Foundation, which aims to provide long-term support to women seeking office in Papua New Guinea. They discuss what help Papua New Guinean women need to get elected, and how issues such as money politics and security put them at a significant disadvantage.
Vagi argues that partnering is vital if women are to improve their political representation in Papua New Guinea. “We want our men and women to … be a part of the solution”, but, she adds, women’s civil groups and policymakers also need to work strategically and collaboratively, “because we’re stronger together”.
In this third episode, Jessica speaks with Damarise Bonga, a female candidate in the upcoming 2022 national election. Damarise shares her experience of running unsuccessfully in a prior election, and talks about the broader challenges for women trying to represent their communities in parliament. She says a fundamental issue lies in how people (both men and women) perceive leadership in PNG, and how this continues to be a significant barrier to balanced representation in the country.
“In politics, in PNG it’s quite different … They think that the Parliament is … hausman in Tok Pisin, meaning that it’s a house for man. And that’s kind of bias, you know.”