The 10-episode series follows Meri through her own and her family’s reservations about standing through to her first campaign speech and the need to balance her personal concerns with the rigours of campaigning.
The Pacific region has the world’s lowest levels of women in parliament, with an average of just 7 per cent – the global average is 21.8 per cent – and two of the three countries in the world that currently have no women in parliament are in the Pacific.
Changes are taking place. An amendment to Samoa’s constitution means that 10 per cent of seats in parliament will be filled by women from the 2016 elections, Vanuatu has passed a temporary special measure that mandates a third of municipal council seats be held by women and in September Fiji elected eight women to their parliament (16 per cent) one of whom was named the country’s first female speaker of the house.
This year offers further opportunities with elections being held this month in both Solomon Islands and Tonga.
Nicolas Burniat, UN Women’s Deputy Representative at the Multi-Country Office in Fiji, says that while women have the right to vote and to stand for election in all Pacific countries, they often come up against negative gender stereotypes and socio-cultural norms.
“With this radio drama UN Women wants to encourage Pacific societies to reflect on what a leader looks like and the roles that women can and should play in politics. Radio is such a powerful medium here in the Pacific, and we hope that this innovative series will help start discussions about women and leadership in every house, village and community across the region.”
The radio series is part of EU-supported Strongim Mere project, which falls under UN Women’s Advancing Gender Justice programme. The programme focuses on increasing women’s political participation across the Pacific that includes empowerment workshops for media and secondary and tertiary students, leadership training for women candidates and technical support for governments. It also enlists female parliamentarians to share their experiences and male parliamentarians to speak out about the need for, and advantages of having, women in leadership roles.
Ambassador Leonidas Tezapsidis, Head of the European Union Delegation to Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, says the EU sees supporting women’s empowerment and participation in politics as necessary in helping Pacific Islanders make full use of their potential.
“The radio drama accurately depicts the challenges that women in Solomon Islands face when they try to participate in political life in a male-dominated countries and how to overcome them. This helps to spread this message to all provinces, constituencies and villages of Solomon Islands, especially in the rural areas where it is most needed.”
Link to comic book and radio drama