More women in Tonga should participate in politics, says New Zealand MP

NZ MP Jenny Salesa, who hopes to inspire more Tongan women to participate in politics ahead of Tonga’s local body elections in June, says one of the main obstacles is women themselves.


Salesa, of Tongan descent, held a meeting in Nuku'alofa in mid-April inviting women who were interested in politics. She says over 50 women attended.

She told Radio New Zealand there has been a distinct lack of women involved in political leadership. The current 26 members of parliament are all men.

She hopes that the local body elections in June will be a possible first step towards getting women back into Parliament, which in the past has only seen three women elected as members.

“There have been, as far as I know, three women who have been elected as members of
parliament here in Tonga in the past,” says Salesa,
“only three”.

In the last Tongan general election there were 16 women candidates. However none were successful.

The topic was hotly debated over the radio in Tonga, says Salesa, and she remembers questions of why not one of the 16 women was successful in gaining a seat.

“I'd say about 90 percent of the callers that were ringing in to the radio station spoke along the lines - “Women, their place is in the home. Women shouldn't be heads of departments. Women shouldn't be in parliament. Women shouldn't make decisions including in business or in parliament.”

About 90 per cent of those calls (the majority) were from women.

Salesa says this was the most disappointing thing for her, “before we actually point the finger at others as to why there is not enough female representation, we ourselves as women need to also ask why it is that we do not support our own”.

She hopes that this time more women will get involved and that women will support each other going forward.