Times have changed, says Vanuatu's first woman MP in 14 years

Times have changed, says Vanuatu's first woman MP in 14 years

"I am very honoured to be the one voice representing the women of Vanuatu," Gloria Julia King says
"I am very honoured to be the one voice representing the women of Vanuatu," Gloria Julia King says. Photo: Hilaire Bule / AFP
Source: AFP

PAY ATTENTION: Сheck out news that is picked exactly for YOU ➡️ find the “Recommended for you” block on the home page and enjoy!

Gloria Julia King, the first woman elected to the Vanuatu parliament in 14 years, said entering the male-dominated house shows that times have changed in the Pacific nation.

King based her campaign around creating more opportunities for women in a country where gender violence is common and they have long been disadvantaged in employment and education.

She will join the 52-member national legislature when it next sits on November 4.

"I am very honoured to be the one voice representing the women of Vanuatu ... to table their concerns in parliament," King said.

"Coming from a very traditional background, I think the main challenge was getting everyone to accept ... that time has changed," King told AFP.

Read also

Burkina establishes 'government on war footing': PM

According to United Nations figures, three in five women in Vanuatu have experienced violence while in a relationship.

PAY ATTENTION: Follow us on Instagram - get the most important news directly in your favourite app!

Women make up 40 percent of the work force in Vanuatu, a chain of 82 islands that sits halfway between Australia and Fiji in the vast South Pacific Ocean.

Marion Crawshaw, a former New Zealand diplomat with extensive Pacific experience, said King's election to parliament was an important step.

"Vanuatu has had women in key positions in business and the public sector, but it is genuinely quite difficult for them to get elected," she said.

An Australian government study in 2014 found women were "disadvantaged in significant ways in Vanuatu".

"Women remain underrepresented in vocational, technical and tertiary education," it said.

'Do not give up'

King entered politics as an established figure in both sport and business.

Read also

'Make it stop!' Brazilians fed up with long, dirty election campaign

She co-runs a firm selling kava, a peppery, mildly intoxicating root drink that is a key part of Pacific ceremonies, and played football for Vanuatu in her youth.

King also acted as Vanuatu's chef de mission at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this year.

She chairs the Vanuatu Women in Sports working group and founded a football development programme for youngsters.

"Sports was a separate platform that helped me preach the same message, be it women in business or women in sports," she said.

King entered politics in August after former prime minister Bob Loughman had parliament suspended to avoid a no-confidence vote.

Snap elections were called for mid-October, giving candidates just 10 days to campaign.

Coalition talks are under way to form the next government. Former opposition leader Ralph Regenvanu has said he is "looking forward to having a woman's voice in parliament again".

King said she went into politics "very open-eyed" but admitted sometimes feeling outnumbered as the only woman in intense decision-making discussions.

Read also

Black South Africans break into once white-only wine industry

She won 1,618 votes to take one of the five seats in the constituency of Efate, Vanuatu's third-largest island.

Half a dozen other women candidates failed to secure a seat but King praised their efforts and urged them to stay motivated.

"Do not give up. Women (must) continue to support each other by lifting each other up," she said.

"It's reassuring to know that women are brave enough to step up."

Source: AFP

Online view pixel