If women are not divided, they do not require reserve seats to get into national Parliament, said Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat.

Minister Napuat said women become their own stumbling block in getting their voices heard and representation in Parliament.

The minister said women often blame men and our culture as barriers in getting voted into Parliament.

“I don’t think it’s right to blame us men and our culture as the blockade to having women in parliament. Our women are not united. They need to sort out their differences first,” he stressed.

Napuat continued, “There are key issues that need to be addressed and one is unity amongst women.

“I once told the women that they make up a big percentage of our population and if they want to have their voice represented at national level, they do not require reserve seats.”

He said this is a sovereign country, founded on Christian principles and traditional Melanesian values.

“They have to prove themselves to the communities and let the people decide.”

There are mechanisms in place to influence their voice into parliament. In the end, the women must prove themselves.

Mr Napuat said the Government is recognising women as leaders in their own respective walks of life.

“There is a dedicated department for women, which is the Department of Women’s Affairs. We have included women in decision makings. We have allowed them to participate.

“The government through the Public Service Commission is also supporting that and this can be seen with women occupying important and senior positions in the government ministries and departments. Even in the Vanuatu Police Force.

“Even political parties will be putting up women candidates to contest in the election. But, again it is up to the women to unite and show their support.”

The minister further stressed that there are several factors that should to be considered when dealing with this issue.

“If we are going to allow reserve seats for women, then other groupings will surely want to follow suit.

“The Churches will come forward and ask for reserve seats. The chiefs will come forward. The youth, which represent the biggest percentage in this country will also come forward to demand reserve seats.

“This is an issue that needs a wider national consultation and it has to be the wish of all women.

“Everyone needs to give their opinion.

“I don’t think their approach is right, by having just few coming and demanding it from the government and being influenced by a foreign ideology.

“We have to ask the Vanuatu women, what they want.

“Let’s all talk about it. Let all men and women come together, chiefs, youth groups come and talk about it. This is a national issue, which will affect representation of people and so the people’s voice must be heard.

“They cannot be divided on the issue.

“How many of the countries around the Pacific have reserve seats? They managed to have women in Parliament without electing them through reserve seats.”

He stressed that even the people of Vanuatu had successfully elected women into Parliament.

“This means our system works. We just have to do the right thing. I come from a political party that supports women. We want to see good women elected into Parliament.”

He reiterated that the approach of demanding reserve seats is not right.