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Ipatas leads charge to get women into parliament

Sylvia Pascoe (Godfree Kaptigau  The Guardian)
Sylvia Pascoe - “I’m not the type of person that sees an issue and just walks away from it”  (Godfree Kaptigau,  The Guardian)

| Guardian News & Media Ltd | Edited
|  Supported by the Judith Nielson Institute for Journalism & Ideas

PORT MORESBY – In June, entrepreneur Sylvia Pascoe will attempt to take her leadership to the highest level by contesting the country’s national election.

Pascoe, who began the Port Moresby city markets, is passionate about creating opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs, especially other women.

“I’m not the type of person that sees an issue and just walks away from it,” she said.

“I feel like if it’s in front of me and it needs to be done, I do it.”

Pascoe is one of four women nominated by influential political figure, MP and Enga governor Sir Peter Ipatas, to run on the People’s Party ticket.

The others are media executive Tania Bale, former top bureaucrat Anne Bais and business woman Michelle Hau’ofa.

Each will be a candidate in one of the four electorates that make up Port Moresby.

Ipatas’s support for the women caused a stir, given how influential he has been in backroom machinations that have seen prime ministers rise and fall in PNG.

It was welcomed by many as a positive shift after the results of the 2017 elections, in which no women were voted in, making PNG one of just three countries in the world to have no women in its parliament.

“It’s not a publicity stunt, it’s not a grab for headlines, it is genuinely something he has put a lot of thought and care into,” said Bale.

“It is an incredible opportunity for us and an incredible honour for us to be mentored and come under the wing of governor Sir Peter Ipatas.”

According to United Nation reports, Papua New Guinean women are disadvantaged in many areas of development, including politics.

In its nearly 50 years of independence, PNG has had only seven female MPs, something the four women are aware of.

“We haven’t had many women in parliament and currently we have zero, which has been a big motivator for us,” said Bale.

“Hopefully, the steps we’ve taken will give fortitude to other women to step forward.”

Ipatas has been in parliament for 25 years and is a political enigma - always at the centre of power but never offering himself as a candidate for prime minister.

Since he founded the People’s Party in 2006 it has been a major player in the formation of governments, including bringing to power current prime minister James Marape.

Ipatas is revered as a visionary leader and has been instrumental in reforms in education, health, and infrastructure.

“We feel that the ladies are capable, or sometimes more capable, of representing our people in parliament,” he said when endorsing the four female candidates.


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