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Can we at least talk about women’s political participation?

14 Jul

Last year, I was involved in promoting women’s political participation during the elections in Sierra Leone and Ghana. Women’s representation in parliament in both countries is low, in Sierra Leone it dropped to 12.4% following the election and in Ghana it raised marginally to 10.9%. In both countries, the belief that women are not suited to politics has created many barriers to women’s political participation. Women are marginalised from political party networks which often act as ‘old boys’ clubs; there is frequent verbal (and sometimes physical) violence against female candidates; and the often inflexible demands of political life make it difficult for many women to balance a career in politics with childcare responsibilities.

Before working on this, I had no idea what the rate of women’s representation in parliament was in New Zealand so I looked it up one day. It was 32%. That’s low I thought, someone should talk about it. Then I forgot about it again until it was brought up a week ago when it became public that a proposal from Labour’s national council to use affirmative action policies to increase the number of female Labour MPs would be voted on at the party’s annual conference in November. As part of the proposal, a target would be set to have women make up 45 % of Labour MPs by 2014 and 50 % by 2017. Along with this, a list moderating committee would ensure the correct ratio of women get into parliament and Local Electorate committees could ask the NZ Council to assign certain seats as only open for women’s selection.

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Young people have plenty to say

25 Nov

They say that thirty-five is the new twenty-five.  If that’s the case then twenty-five is the new fifteen when it comes to getting your voice heard in political decision-making.  Is it the fate of young people that they will always feel ignored by politicians or is the unease with the current political machinery a growing phenomena?  The large participation of youth in Augusts London riots and the  growing Occupy movements around the world would suggest that indeed, young people are beginning to feel like traditional means of influencing societies decision-making process no longer speak for them.

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Don’t forget about the referendum too…

24 Nov

On the eve of the election, parties have made their promises for the future of the country, debated who is the most capable of taking New Zealand in the ‘right direction’ and thrown punches as they battle to win votes. However, this years election has an extra layer – we are also voting about whether we want to keep MMP. However, as Gordon Campbell so rightfully points out, we as a nation are lacking the expertise and the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision on this referendum.

“It seems a big ask to expect that after a month of brochures in the letterbox and occasional 30 second ad on television that most voters will be well enough acquainted with the voting systems on offer – Supplementary Member, Single Transferable Vote, Mixed Member Proportional and First Past the Post – to make an informed call about their relative strengths and weaknesses. Is a referendum a good way of dealing with issues of such complexity?”

“An entire generation of voters up to the age of 33 or thereabouts have voted only within MMP-style elections. Among older citizens, memories of the unfairness of the FPP system have faded.”

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Political standards go down as Key and Goff attempt to ‘man up’

8 Nov

With the national election only three weeks away the Dominion Post has had the ‘balls’ to put John Key and Phil Goff to a real test of political suitability by measuring their ‘blokeyness’ (see this article on Stuff). Can John Key drink a yardy in under a minute? Does Phil Goff let his wife take control of the direction on the open road? Does John Key go commando? Forget testing the potential leaders on their commitment to dealing with child poverty, New Zealand’s marine disaster or the increasing vulnerability of New Zealand economy. Instead, the Dominion Post thinks the best way to ensure that we elect a prime minister who is able to provide innovative solutions to the problems we are facing, is by measuring his ability to draw on the core ‘bloke’ values from the 19th century suited to chasing round sheep or educating ‘natives’ in property rights.

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