Developing a More Facilitating Environment for Women?s Political Participation in Nauru

Type Journal Article
Title Developing a More Facilitating Environment for Women?s Political Participation in Nauru
Publisher Citeseer
Women have played a marginal role in Nauru?s Parliamentary history. Tere are currently no women
Members of Parliament, and there has only ever been one female MP. Nor are measures in place which aim
to redress this situation, despite growing acknowledgement that broad political reform is crucial, given the
country?s history of governance-related difculties, dissipation of fnancial revenues and the impending
exhaustion of phosphate exports. Tis study investigates the barriers to women?s participation in Parliament.
It is intended to explore ways of generating a more facilitating environment for women?s participation in
the political arena. How can women come to play a more signifcant role in policy formulation and decision making? What reforms might ensure that women come to be seen, heard and recognised?
Te research conducted to enable completion of this study focuses on the operation and conduct of
Nauru?s voting system, asking whether electoral reforms might enhance the position of women. Nauru
has an internationally unusual electoral system; voters cast a preferential ballot in multi-member constituencies. Each voter is required to record as many preferences as there are candidates. All preferences are
then immediately tallied. A frst preference is worth ?1?, a second preference ?0.5?, a third preference ?0.33?,
a fourth preference ?0.25? and so on. Seven constituencies return two members to Parliament, and one
constituency returns four members. Clearly, usage of multi-member constituencies, which is elsewhere in
the world ofen identifed as benefcial to women?s political participation, has not assisted the position on
Nauru. A further reaching investigation is required, both of structural-institutional obstacles to women?s
participation and of scope for concerted action by women?s groups and civil society organisations to challenge male dominance over the political arena.
Te research underlying this study was based on interviews, and discussions among focus groups, and was
aimed at identifying obstacles to women?s participation in politics. Many of these barriers were found to be
bound up with prevalent attitudes, negative perceptions abut women?s potential contribution or conservative views regarding women?s position in Nauruan society. Ofen, as in other parts of the Pacifc, weak sex
balance in Parliament was identifed with ?tradition?. Such attitudes persist, in part, because few women
have been able to break the mould by emerging as recognised national leaders. Nevertheless, women do
play an important role in Nauruan society, both inside and outside formal employment. Women perform
strongly in the professions, in education and in the civil service. In this sense, there is something of a
mismatch between women?s position in public life and their negligible involvement in national politics.
As Nauru turns towards a greater recognition of the need for wholesale economic reform and transformation of entrenched political mismanagement, this report suggests that the time is ripe to consider creating
a more enabling environment for women?s involvement in politics.
Te report also considers formal barriers to women?s participation. It looks at the country?s Constitution,
land laws, and at the distribution of revenues arising from phosphate exports. It looks at constraints inhibiting women putting themselves forward as candidates for election, and in particular at the ?platforms?
where citizens gather to hear prospective candidates appeal for support from electorates. It examines the
practice of transferring registrations from one constituency to another in pursuit of electoral advantage.
It considers whether reserved seats for women might provide a workable option in Nauru, or whether
enhanced women?s participation might better be lef either as an issue to be promoted by women?s organisations themselves or for a time when suitable candidates emerge on the national stage.
Although the record of women in Parliament is disappointing, the question inevitably remains as
to why so few women candidates put themselves forward for election and why women themselves have110? ? A?Woman?s?Place?is?in?the?House
proved unable to overcome social stigmas against women MPs. Women?s preferences as shown in voting
patterns show little support for those women candidates who do stand for election. Women, like men,
ofen support the view that the public domain is essentially a male forum, a view ofen also encouraged by
the churches. Te cultural, religious beliefs and social norms within our society are ofen gender biased. To
shif Nauru towards more efcient, accountable and equitable styles of governance, a nationwide commitment to promoting greater participation by women in Parliament is required.
Build political will in addressing issues of women?s political representation.
Te introduction of reserved seats to fast-track women?s representation in Parliament.
Electoral reforms.
Enacting legal quotas.
Special measures for enhancing women?s representation.
Support in promoting increased participation of women in politics.
Increased resourcing through gender budgeting for the implementation of measures to
advance women?s political representation.
Te adoption, review and/or implementation of campaign fnancing provisions or
legislation in support of women?s political representation.
Review of legislative and or policy environment to assist political campaigns and voter
education, advocacy on national issues.
Providing capacity building to Parliamentarians and Parliaments to provide enabling
environment to address gender equality and equity issues.
Promote the adoption of structural changes within Parliament to advance gender
equality and equity