There was heated debate about the 22 reserved seats for women during a women’s forum in the nation’s capital.
The debate was fuelled by comments made by Community development Minister Loujaya Kouza, during a panel discussion with current and former members of parliament, including PNG’s first female politician, Dame Josephine Abaijah.
Minister Kouza explained that if women wanted to be treated as equals on the floor of parliament, they had to earn that right by standing against men.
The two day forum entitled “Working together to Inspire change” was co- hosted by the U.S Embassy and the PNG Government through the department of community development.
The stage was set, four powerful women who broke through male dominance to make their mark in the political arena.
Included Eastern Highlands Governor Julie Soso, Community development minister Loujaya Kouza, Bougainville parliamentarian Rose Pihei and political icon Dame Josephine Abaijah.
Our first lady politician Abaijah was humble in her remarks.
The similarity expressed by all four women when deciding to get into politics was the fact that they had the backing of their communities.
They said public perception and support played a big role.
But it was when the discussion on the 22 reserved seats of women came up that stirred a ripple in the room. Minister Kouza was blunt with her remarks.
A university student also agreed that if females or anyone for that matter wanted to be respected they had to challenge the men.
A case in the point is the Bougainville experience. Minister Pihei explained that the three reserved seats for women don’t really have the power to vote when it comes to making budget decisions.
The room was calmed down when the facilitators reminded those present that if their concerns were to be heard they had to speak with one voice.
The forum which ended yesterday was organised by the US Embassy and the PNG Government through the department of community development.