Vanuatu, for the last 10 years has not had any women in its national parliament. Voters are not voting for women! This is a conflict, it's a violation of peace towards Vanuatu women! I believe that we have exhausted all democratic mechanisms to put women into parliament and it is a big shame! While CEDAW and SDG 16 are providing mandatory conventions for Vanuatu to commit, I find that specific articles on these 2 conventions are NOT being respected by our national and local leaders and Institutions who create and enforce laws to enhance gender equality and equity, I also write to share my experience as Vanuatu's first Presidency Candidate in 2004 which was a huge step for me as a 35-year-old woman who was about to be given a divorce by my ex-husband from a marriage which was very much controlled by the church we both belong to that time. I felt broken and alone and I felt that time, as a young woman with 2 children to look after that I was amongst many other young women and girls who were stuck in a circle of abuse. For me, I felt that I needed to get up, shake the dust off myself, pick up the broken pieces and show the world that I was not a loser and therefore will not be caged in that circle of ' losers! I pulled myself together through 2 things; 1. I forgave my husband that time and those who hurt me and told myself, I would no longer hold any grudges and no more 'self -pity' as it stole peace from within me. That worked!
2. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a wrecked poor girl, single mother staring back at me. I started off by smiling at her, the smile stayed longer until I started telling the girl I saw in the mirror that she was beautiful and strong and that she could do it! Saying that I felt a good energy swept within me and a good feeling of hope and some peace within me. From that moment on, I told myself that life was going to be different for me, a different better, full of peace, love and good energy.
I coped with my divorce peacefully and look at life from a different angle. Those early days, when despair was going to overtake me, I would look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, that the sun would shine the next day and it always did! Even though I did not make it to become Vanuatu's First President, I was at peace with it all. To me, I felt not as a looser but that I had been very courageous to step into politics by starting from the highest position in the country! I am not ashamed for taking that step but more rather proud of myself, that 35-year-old broken single Mother who pulled herself up from her lowest to compete with strong and famous politicians.
Today, I am a strong activist in equal political participation for women, using the UNSCR 1325 on Women Peace and Security as the benchmark for my advocacy in partnership with Vanuatu Young Women For Change ( a girls- led ) NGO I founded in 2013) and the Vanuatu Human Rights Coalition, another NGO I started in 2013 also. The Vanuatu Young Women For Change has created a space in partnership with the Vanuatu Civil Society Association of Chiefs to established a project called ' Storian Insaed Long Nakamal" ) to specifically address the issue of lack of women representation in parliament. With the financial assistance they currently have from the Canadian Fund For Local Initiatives, they are working hard to put at least 5 women in Vanuatu's National Parliament in 2020 and more towards the 2030 period. In Vanuatu's context, the local chiefs are directors of the villages and they have a lot of respect from their people, therefore, we believe that this collaboration with the chiefs can help with positive responses from voters. Ensuring good civic education and learning from voters and political parties is crucial and I believe that at this point in time, this is our violations of peace as Vanuatu women, not having any participation in our national parliament for the last 10 years. I believe that our peace will be completed when we finally have our national parliamentary 53 seats shared by Vanuatu women!