Nuku’alofa, Tonga – Thirty-two participants, including potential women candidates for Tonga’s national elections in November gathered in Nuku’alofa this week for a one-week training workshop on elections campaigning and leadership.
The training workshop aimed to equip participants with the appropriate and necessary skills to run for Parliament or other elected office; establish a network of support for the participants to interact, share and discuss ideas regarding campaigning or candidacy; and empower and encourage participants to be part of decision-making through transformational leadership and gender awareness.
The Women's Campaign and Leadership workshop training was organised by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Tonga Governance Strengthening Programme (TGSP) and UN Women, with support from USAid for an additional specialist presenter on day one of the workshop.
“The Government of Australia supports the promotion of women’s participation as leaders in Tonga. This is reflected in its partnership with the UNDP on the Tonga Governance Strengthening Programme which recognises the importance of Tonga’s governance institutions,” said Scott McLennan, Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Tonga, who officially opened the workshop.
“A key milestone for the women of Tonga has been the successful implementation of the first Women's Practise Parliament in Tonga. We’re pleased with the turn out and the encouraging interest of women to take the challenge and be part of the upcoming elections.”
Scott McLennan said that the Australian Government as part of its new aid program paradigm will ensure the empowerment of women and girls as a central objective of the aid program, recognising the significant benefits that flow to whole communities from women’s participation.
Former Member of Parliament and workshop participant, Lepolo Taunisila spoke persuasively about the role of women in all aspects of Tongan society. “We women need to exhibit our own recognition of women’s equality by valuing the contribution of all women…The changes that we want to see in our community must begin with us women.”
She also stressed the importance of learning from the example of exceptional role models, “With humble appreciation and with respect to Dr Ana Taufe'ulungaki, I’m proud to say she has been my role model since I was in high school.”
In welcoming the participants, Mark Burton, TGSP Coordinator said: “Interconnecting all actions in the
Tonga Governance Strengthening Programme is the understanding that changes that bring about a better functioning, participatory democracy; must involve the active engagement of both men and women, in all aspects, and at all levels of and in, the reformed democratic parliamentary and political processes.”
The Tonga Governance Strengthening Programme is a four-year programme implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with US$3.2 million funding through the Australian aid program. The Programme aims to draw together and to share and strengthen synergies amongst three interrelated governance initiatives: support to Parliament; support to civil society organizations and strengthening the role of civil society in its relationship with the Parliament and Government of Tonga and in providing civic education; and support to the Tonga Electoral Commission.
Sheryl Ho, UNDP Knowledge Communications Analyst, tel: (679) 3227504; email: firstname.lastname@example.org