WOMEN make up around half the population.
But, when it comes to female representation in parliaments around the world, the only countries where women hold at least half the lower house seats are Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia.
In the Pacific region, the numbers drop significantly.
“The stats are about 7.3 per cent, as of March of last year,” says Mele Mauala, the program director for UN Women in Samoa.
“I know there have been some increases through elections that we had most recently, but that’s still a very low number in relation to other parts of the world.”
Mauala says some of the barriers to greater participation of women are not always obvious to voters.
“Each country has its own electoral process electoral system and there can be biases that can be created through those electoral processes.
“By the same token we have a lot of cultural, social and religious norms values and beliefs, practices that can also create an environment which discourages women from even contemplating running.”
Lynda Tabuya was one of ten women who were voted into Fiji’s parliament in the 2018 election.
But she says she was disappointed when she faced criticism from members, including women in her own party, for wearing a dress with a hem slightly above the knee to her first day in parliament.
“For me it wasn’t an issue at all as long as I met the parliamentary dress code, which I did,” Tabuya said.
In Australia, only 29 per cent of MPs in the lower house were women at the last election.
The country is ranked number 51 out of 193 by the Inter-Parliamentary union.
The US is at 75, tied with Montenegro.
Kiribati is at 176, Solomon Islands is 186, and Vanuatu joins PNG in currently having no women in parliament at all.