PNG elections: female candidates want to prove Parliament is not just for men

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The 142 female candidates running for office in Papua New Guinea hope to prove that PNG’s parliament is no longer a male-dominated world.

They face an almighty fight given that only seven women have won seats there so far.

But when the three weeks of voting begin on July 2, these women are determined and hopeful to enter PNG’s parliament.

They are fighting alongside 3,357 men for the 118 seats in parliament.

A number of them hold seats with more than three dozen male rivals.

For years there has been talk of reserving seats for women, but so far nothing has come of it.

Former Governor of the Eastern Highlands, Julie Soso
Photo: RNZ/Daniela Maoate-Cox

Thanks to this, all women have remained indomitable – people like Julie Soso, who first stood for regional seat in the Eastern Highlands in 1997 and has contested every election since.

She won in 2012 and wants to come back to finish unfinished business.

As Governor of the Eastern Highlands, during this period from 2012 to 2017, Soso had pushed for an upgrade of Goroka Hospital, giving it diagnostic capability.

This continued, but she said that since the change of government in 2017 nothing had happened – the machines paid for by foreign donors sit idle and no staff have been hired to operate them.

Soso wants the machines to be used and help detect diseases like cancer.

“We need specialist doctors to diagnose them and if surgery is to be performed on them, it must be done in our own hospital,” she said.

“So there was a dream, there was a vision, and then, after the change of government in the Eastern Highlands, the project stopped.”

Matilda Koma is standing against 37 men in the Goilala Open siege in Central Province.

Koma has stood in Goilala’s seat four times before, but this time she feels she has the support to get her across the line.

If elected, she has a clear idea of ​​what she wants to do, starting with the rehabilitation of the neighborhood’s degraded infrastructure.

“Like bridges, roads and even all these building structures at every mission and government station, kind of falling apart,” Koma said.

PNG Parliament

Parliament PNG
Photo: AFP

“Basic services are also lacking. Health and education are suffering because there are hardly any first aid posts. Hospitals are not functioning and medicines – the supply of medicines – are simply not consistent” .

Papua New Guinea’s Oro Province has high quality soils and can produce excellent organic food, but people cannot get it to market due to lack of infrastructure.

This is the opinion of Jean Eparo, who is running in the elections next month for the regional seat of Oro.

Eparo, who is married to PNG’s National Capital District Governor, Powes Parkop, said if she got the job, her immediate focus would be to improve transport infrastructure.

“Not just roads, but all other means of transport. Bridges – they’re not very well maintained, and then you have people traveling with small outboard motors, and it’s very risky, so we we have to make it safe and a little less risky for people. And then, of course, our road connections are also very bad,” she said.

PNG Minister Delilah Gore.

Delilah Gore
Photo: TREASURE PNG

As a veteran of two previous campaigns, Eparo believes she now has enough support to overthrow Gary Juffa who has held the seat for 10 years.

Delilah Gore, contesting the Sohe Open in Oro Province, won the seat in 2012, became a minister, then lost the seat in 2017.

She said the loss still hurts, “It shouldn’t have happened because I tried my best, the best I could. But right now I can get reactions from people. people. A lot of people tell me I’ve been doing well lately. five years – voters still couldn’t believe I lost the seat, so I have a lot of support right now. I’m confident to come back again.”

With another high profile contender we heard about on a previous show, Dulciana Somare Brash, the daughter of PNG’s first Prime Minister, heading into the Angoram Open, these women are confident they will make it.

Hopefully, for at least some of them, that will be the case.

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