The public Gallery is a place where any man, woman or youth can go to see members of parliament debate and vote on bills that affect the lives of all ni-Vanuatu people and the foreigners that live here or visit the country.

Too often many of the 90 seats are left empty.

However, this year at the opening session of the 11th legislature, Parliament got a shock when 26 women from the Vanuatu Mamas’ English Class (VMEC) decided to exercise their right and responsibility as citizens.

These 26 women representing each province arrived early to see first hand how their elected MPs work together to solve the country’s challenges.

“We are honored and excited to sit in on this session,” said Dawna Horton, a VMEC co-founder.

“After Thursday’s disappointment we were still very determined to witness this historical event.”

Thursday morning was the scheduled start of Parliament’s 11th legislature but it was delayed due to the opposition boycott.

“We owe a thank you to Hon. MP Jack Norris for sponsoring a return trip for today’s rescheduled opening.”

Dawna continued: “This trip to Parliament is just part of the work we do to empower our members.

“Using English literacy we have seen the confidence and knowledge base of even high performing students increase as they move through the class.

“As our participants graduate and become members we push them to think about how they can use what they have learned during class to help their families, their communities and ultimately their country.

“Today’s visit and even Thursday’s boycott really opened there eyes to that political process.

“Maybe one day one of these women will move from a gallery seat to an MP’s chair.

“The goal of this trip and our program is to get women thinking about their role in the development of a strong and prosperous Vanuatu.”

It seemed that many in Parliament where just as excited and interested in their presence.

There were a lot of questions about what group we represented and why we wanted to attend that day’s session.

MP Samson Samsen of Santo was so impressed by the group that he sponsored their lunch so they would be able to stay for the second half period, said Priscilla Arudali, a member of the program.

The women marked this historic day for the Vanuatu Mamas’ English Class with a small token of appreciation for each of the 52 MPs. READ MORE