Lord Speaker, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Akiko Fujii, Diplomatic Corps, Rev Dr. ‘Ahio, Distinguished Guests and Members of this First Ever Practice Parliament for Women in Tonga.
I am well aware that this is indeed a historical day for the People of Tonga, but in particular, it is a joyous day for the women of Tonga.
Over the past three (3) decades, there has been slow progress in increasing women’s participation at the highest level of national decision-making with only seven (7) women becoming Members of the Legislative Assembly. Today, however, is a crucial milestone and it marks a very positive step forward for Tonga.
I thank the Lord Speaker for supporting this great initiative for women to speak in our national parliament. I thank our generous donors and the many unsung heroes who have worked tirelessly to make this historical event possible.
Whilst I can confidently say that Tongan women have long been at the fore-front of our homes, our work-places, our churches and our communities, it is unfortunate that the number of women who have become People’s Representatives has remained minimal.
I have no doubt that this Practice Parliament will encourage women who aspire to be political leaders to step upwith confidence. This is an opportunity for women to raise their profile and expose their unique underutilized skills and experience on a national level.
I also hope, honorable members of this Practice Parliament, that you will forge life-long friendships with your fellow members and that you will continue to encourage each other should you wish to continue witha political career. I urge you to take this opportunity to learn from this constructive experience.
Being a leader is not an easy task and as many female public leaders may attest, it can also seem like an uphill struggle at times, but in saying so, the opportunity to lead people in any capacity is a tremendous privilege and responsibility. You have been selected because you have the potential to make a positive difference for those less fortunate, you can give a voice to the voiceless, and be at the forefront of initiating change for the better.
I wish to congratulate all the women who have been selected as the successful candidates for this first Practice Parliament for Women in Tonga 2014. Members of this Practice Parliament, as you are women from all walks of life, you are also representing women from all walks of life. Both men and women will be anticipating your discussions in the House and will be anxiously tuning in to the radio and televised broadcasts to hear your voice.
I am indeed very impressed with the combination of women representatives to this Practice Parliament and I am confident that the bills, motions and petitions that they will debate will be in the public’s best interests.
This Practice Parliament will also showcase our parliamentary institutionwith its aspirations for a more inclusive and democratic government, as well as its respect for free speech and the rights of the marginalized and the minority. It also sends a strong message that Tonga wishes to inspire broad tolerance in thought and expression- all this we consider to be a precious part of our way of life and outlook.
I know that this historical moment and the ensuing days will be embedded in your memories and it is of course an experience that you will be proudly telling your children and grandchild in the years to come. I do look forward to following the progress of this Practice Parliament and its outcomes. I will also be very happy to follow your progress should any of you run in the upcoming general elections in November.
I wish to express my gratitude for the invitation to open the meeting this morning and I wish you all the very best. I now declare the Tonga Practice Parliament for Women 2014 OPEN.
GOB BLESSES YOU ALL
Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u
Issued from the : Tonga Legislative Assembly