Former Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Reduction, Mereseini Rakuita, said she joined the Fiji First Party because she was told “the party needs more women to speak in parliament”.
Ms. Rakuita said she joined the party because she was passionate about empowering women and giving them a voice in the national arena.
However, she said she was disaffected that the existing system made it difficult for parliamentarians to truly represent the people they voted for.
“I was told, ‘I want more women to speak in parliament to join the party,’ and that won me over because I’ve always been very interested in successful women,” she said.
“It’s the system we have, actually a constitutional provision that says that even if I get in because I get so many votes, there are people who believe in me and feel that I have to lead the nation a certain constitutional provision that says “if I speak my mind in parliament and my opinion contradicts what my party is saying, then that is reason enough to kick me out.
“So what’s the point of having great leaders who have great ideas on how we can move forward as a nation, and that is lost when we have a system that doesn’t support your individual leadership skills.
“If we want to achieve greater gender equality and the empowerment of women, we need to rethink the system that regulates our participation in political leadership circles.
“We have heard of the barriers, the existing cultural, social and religious norms that can overcome structural barriers to the improvement of this cause.
“We have heard of discrimination, harassment and violence against women in leadership positions, but what are we doing about it?”