Interview with Palau women Senators

Interview with Palau women Senators


I went into politics
because I really believe that I could make
a difference for families for the people of Palau. I was not happy with what I was
seeing in the last government. So when the election
took place in 2012– we have four year
terms– I decided to run, Because I really
believe that I could make a difference for
the people of Palau and do something
good for families. Some of the male
senators thought that I could contribute
a lot to the country and that if I join
the politics, they’ll help me with the campaign
and help me go into politics. And they really challenged
me to contribute to the development
of the country, and that was the only
way I can really do it, so I think that’s what
attracted me to the politics. Well, we’ve had a constitutional
government for the past 30 years and, as you
know, I want to call it the old boy’s network. I think most of
the decisions are being done– we don’t have
golf courses– so it’s being done in the coffee shops. So women, being the
minority, I think we do not get to be part of
the decision-making process. I think that’s a big challenge
for me, as one of woman three women in the senate. The biggest challenge for me
is it’s like a man’s world. It’s a different kind of a game. They’ve been in
politics for a long time and they really determine
the rules of the game. So, as a woman, I have to
learn how to be a part of that and be a part of
the game and how to win even though
I’m so new to it and sometimes I
feel intimidated. Palauan women are
very strong women. Palauan women in our culture
appoint a chief of a clan, so what we’ve been hearing from
the men MP’s, when last year when we started this
organisation called Women Empowerment in Palau to get more
women to stand for elections, they’re comments to me, simply,
don’t you already have enough power under our
traditional system? Why do you want
to be in politics? And so my answer
has always been it’s a democratic style
of government. It’s a representation
type of government. So there are 50 percent
or more women in Palau. That should be reflected
in the government, in this democratic
elected government. In our society, women
are very strong. The women members
of the clan appoint who is going to be the chief. The women support
the chief and people who are leaders
in our community, but our role is to appoint. We never stand up
and say I’m going to be going into the
leadership position. But I think the most important
thing for me is the networking. It’s sitting down
with women, it’s seeing that I’m not
struggling in this alone. It was very hard for me. I’ve been in office
for a one year now. The first year was
very challenging. And it was so– I was relieved
to discover that they were also going through the same
type of sacrifices. Times away from families. That, for me, was
very important, the face-to-face
networking discussions. Highlight for me,
so far, is to see a very different
political process taking place, that is
the Question Time. I saw the minister and the
government answer to the people directly. I mean, they were not prepared. They have to be really what
they are and who they are. And I can really see that
honesty coming out of them. So that was very good. But I saw a lot of women MP’s
as well, who are doing well. They’ve learned to deal
with the men’s world, and they’re very strong,
and very articulate. So I’ve learned a lot from
the women MP’s and everybody we met. Minister Bishop was very
supportive of our trip here, of the work
in the Pacific area. It was a wonderful meeting. She asked us what she
could do to help us along. And we’re hoping that she’ll
be able to attend the Pacific Islands Forum in Palau, which is
happening in July of this year. So we’re hoping to see her. Yes, I did. I met her. She’s a very strong woman
and I really admire her. And she seems committed
to the Pacific and wanted to continue
the exchange we have so that we can learn
something from her. I also got a chance to be with
Senator Urquhart in Tasmania. I went to her electorate office. I saw some things
that she’s doing. So I can see that there are very
busy, not only during sitting, but even when
they’re not sitting, they’re out there in
their communities, supporting communities. A chance to talk
with Doctor Stone, to talk about her
community and the problems that they’re facing. So, yes, it’s been an
eye opener for women MP’s here in Australia. Well what I learned
from the women MP’s here is when you
break new grounds, you have to be exceptional. You have to work really hard. So I think we got elected
because we worked hard, and two of us, Senator Senior
and I, are well-educated women. We work hard. We’ve done something
in the community to make people trust
that there’s something we can contribute, and
that’s why they voted for us.

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