Election of women in local elections paves way for more female MPs says Salesa

    The election of two women in Tonga in last month’s town and district officer elections has paved the way for more women to enter the Tongan Parliament, according to New Zealand MP Jenny Salesa.

    Salesa became the first Tongan speaking woman elected to the New Zealand Parliament in 2014.

    Sisifa Fili became the first woman from ‘Eua to be elected to the role of District Officer, while Vika Kaufusi was elected as Town Officer for Haveluloto.

    Four women candidates who came second in the election were entitled to take the roles of Acting District and Acting Town Officers.

    They were Loisi Halaliku, Hihifo District , Vava’u; Vinolia Save, Town Officer, Ha’alalo; Melesila Weilert, Town Officer, Ha’atafu and Valamotu Taufa, Town Officer, Matamaka Vava’u

    Salesa said the results were “interesting” and that it had energised her mission to encourage more Tongan women in politics.

    She has made public speeches in Tonga in the past encouraging women to stand for elections especially during the kingdom’s last general and local government elections.

    Salesa said it was time Tonga supported its women.

    She said the election of Fili “was historic.”

    She said she grew up in Haveluloto and knew Kaufusi personally.

    Salesa said that on one occasion while she was in Tonga she was invited to a meeting arranged to support women to stand in the local government elections.

    She said she was interested in a speech by Kaufusi who she said that while her husband was bedridden it was she who attended most of the meetings called for town officers.

    Kaufusi said she learned almost everything about the position since her husband had been the town officer for the village for quite a while, according to Salesa.

    Salesa said she was unhappy when she learned a woman candidate from Vava’u failed just by few votes in the election.

    “It is important for whichever woman is running for election to convince voters to vote for them,” she said.

    “We can tell from the results of this town and district officers that we can do it,” Salesa said.

    She said she was aware that some women in Tonga thought that women did not have a place in politics.

    “That’s one of the barriers,” Salesa said.

    “It’s time for us to say that women can do it.”

    Salesa said it had been for a long time since the first five women made it into Parliament.

    “I would like to wish Vika  and Sisifa all the very best for their future in Tonga’s politics,” she said.

    Salesa said she would continue encouraging the women who ran unsuccessfully in the last general election.

    “It is really tough and challenging getting into politics as woman,” she said.

    Salesa said the right of women to get involved in politics had been recognised globally.

    “Look at Germany. Its president is a woman, Angela Dorothea Merkel.

    “The UK is going to confirm Theresa May as their new Prime Minister.

    “In the United States there is a possibility that Hilary Clinton could become their President”.

    “New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clerk is the best candidate for the post of General Secretary of the United Nations.

    “Why not us?”

    The main points

    • The election of two women in Tonga in last month’s town and district officer elections has paved the way for more women to enter the Tongan Parliament, according to New Zealand MP Jenny Salesa.
    • Sisifa Fili became the first woman from ‘Eua to be elected to the role of District Officer, while Vika Kaufusi was elected as Town Officer for Haveluloto.
    • Four women candidates who came second in the election were entitled to take the roles of Acting District and Acting Town Officers.
    • Salesa said the results had energised her mission to encourage more Tongan women in politics.

    For more information

    Tongan women pioneers will face pressure

    13 women candidates standing for Tonga’s local government election (Kaniva News)

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