In the Pacific region, statistics paint a concerning picture: women make up less than 7 percent of parliamentarians.

Acting as a catalyst for collective action, female leaders from parliaments across the Pacific have gathered in Auckland for the Pacific Women in Power Forum, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) conveyed.

Supported by New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, the three-day forum, which will conclude on February 23, brings together women members of parliaments and parliamentary officials to explore opportunities for enhancing women’s representation, strategies for promoting inclusivity, and the role of parliaments in addressing gender inequality.

The forum addresses various challenges faced by women in politics, including persistent online harassment fueled by the anonymity of social media, a form of abuse that affects the daily lives of many women MPs worldwide.

Despite women’s representation in politics remaining the lowest in any region globally, with progress ranging from stagnant to gradual, there is a noticeable shift in attitudes across the Pacific demanding change.

In the Pacific, less than seven percent of politicians are women, compared to 27 percent globally.

Tuvalu’s recent general election saw no women elected to parliament, while Fiji experienced a 10 percent decrease in women’s representation compared to its previous parliament.

Nevertheless, there are encouraging developments in some Pacific countries. In Nauru, two out of 19 parliamentary seats are held by women, and in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine was recently sworn in as President.

In Vanuatu, Gloria Julia King became the country’s first woman elected to parliament in nearly 14 years.

Similarly, in Papua New Guinea, Francesca Semoso, along with Rufina Peter and Kessy Sawang, has strengthened women’s representation to the highest levels since 2012.

Therese Kaetavara, Deputy Speaker in the parliament of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, emphasized the importance of a parliament’s composition reflecting the population it serves.

“Underrepresentation is not merely a statistic; it is our reality.

“As women leaders, we must appreciate each other’s unique and diverse experiences. Only then can we collectively alter the statistics on women in leadership positions,” she stated.

Munkhtuya Altangerel, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji, highlighted the forum’s role in identifying and solidifying key priorities for future efforts to enhance women’s political participation and representation across the Pacific.

“True democracy goes beyond elections and parties; it involves ensuring equal rights translate into equal participation in society, particularly for women.

“Supporting initiatives for women’s political participation is crucial, with the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals and gender equality depending on amplifying women’s voices in our parliaments,” she said.