The Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly hosted its inaugural Women’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Programme (SWCPP) on Monday, 16th March 2015 at the Tofilau Eti Alesana Building.
The SWCPP is a joint initiative by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) to commemorate Commonwealth Day under the theme “A Young Commonwealth” and the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) group to commemorate International Women’s Day (March 8th). The CPA Samoa Branch invited young women between the ages of 18 to 25 from the National University of Samoa and the University of the South Pacific to participate and a total of 65 registered.
Participants learnt about the roles of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Group (CWP) through presentations and discussions led by the Hon Gatoloaifaana Amataga Gidlow, Deputy Chairperson of the CWP Steering Committee and parliamentary officials.
The Speaker of Parliament, Hon Laauli Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt delivered the opening address where he stated that “the theme, ‘A Young Commonwealth’ recognizes the capacity, contribution and potential of young people, who play a vital role in sustainable development and democracy”. He emphasized the need for good leaders to make good decisions for Samoa and encouraged the young women to get to know their Parliament and its place in the Commonwealth and also make use of this opportunity to make a contribution to the legislative process.
Participants observed the Parliament Pre-Sitting Briefing where five Bills scheduled to be introduced in the next sitting were discussed. They toured the Parliament House and the Offices of the Legislative Assembly, where the participants learned about the work of each division. The presentations were geared to give participants basic knowledge and understanding of the Commonwealth, the CPA, the CWP and Samoa’s involvement in these organizations.
The Clerk, Fepuleai Attila M. Ropati spoke on The Roles of the Commonwealth and the CPA, highlighting the principles and objectives of the Commonwealth as well purpose of the CPA and how they work together with the Parliament of Samoa. The Deputy Clerk, Charlene Malele spoke on the relationship between the CPA and the Parliament of Samoa, and how the Parliament of Samoa has benefitted from joining the CPA for example the twinning project which has opened doors to funding and capacity building. The Deputy Chairperson of the CWP Steering Committee and Associate Minister for Women, Community and Social Development, Hon. Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana Gidlow spoke on the CWP in its support for increased representation of Women in Pacific Parliaments accentuating on the CPA’s commitment to gender equality and the need to encourage women to actively participate in national political institutions.
The programme concluded in a panel discussion on the topic, ‘Samoa as a Member of the Commonwealth of Nations Today’, and a question and answer session lead by Hon. Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow. Subsequently participants were divided into two groups for further discussions, where it focused on the role of the CPA in the Pacific and their move to ensure the boost in women representation in the Pacific. The groups also identified obstacles preventing women from entering Parliament and how these obstacles can be overcome.