Guam lawmakers press for equal representation at Pacific Women’s Forum

More than 40 participants from 14 Pacific island countries and territories as well as Malaysia, are attending the 2nd Pacific Women in Power Forum in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: UNDP/Jone Raqauqau)

Three Guam senators took part in last week’s Pacific Women in Power Forum in Brisbane Australia.

The four day event was sponsored by the United Nations Development Program. It recognizes that the Pacific has the lowest level of women’s representation in the world.

Speaker Tina Muna Barnes and senators Mary Camacho Torres, and Senator Régine Biscoe Lee were invited to present on issues impacting women in politics on Guam.

Barriers to Female Participation

At the forum, Speaker Muña Barnes spoke about the obstacles she has faced as a woman on Guam and how she overcame them.

She also talked about how the government of Guam is working to ensure that these barriers be removed for the future daughters of our island.

“I want to ensure a woman’s right to achieve a better life never takes a backseat to caring for her family. It’s unfortunate that this is still the case, but we need to keep on pushing this agenda forward as a government and as a society,” said Speaker Muña Barnes.

Violence against Women in Politics

During her presentation, Sen. Torres advocated for a more comprehensive definition of Violence against Women in Politics (VAWP).

She said any action that keeps women from being politically active, whether it’s physical or psychological, should be considered VAWP.

Torres emphasized that lawmakers eliminate any part of their culture that excuses abusers.

“Too often, we are told that harassment is just the ‘cost of politics.’ That abuse is acceptable because that’s the way it’s always been,” said Sen.  Torres. “But we can’t stop VAWP unless we stop it at the start and call it for what it is: a dangerous obstruction to democratic integrity.”

Social Media and Parliaments

Senator Lee was invited to speak about social media and its use by Guam’s elected leaders.

Lee stressed that online platforms have been effective at maintaining transparency and accountability. But it should not replace face-to-face outreach with constituents or cooperation with traditional media partners.

“Guam and many Pacific island cultures have an overlapping value of sharing. By participating in events like this, we have the opportunity to bring back viable, successful ideas that can work for Guam and continue to build our network across the Blue Continent,” said Lee.

The Pacific Women in Power Forum was established by the UNDP to promote women’s political participation, support women members of parliament, and strengthen legislatures’ capacity in Pacific Island countries.

Costs for the senators’ participation in the event were fully covered by the UNDP Fund. That included economy airfare, accommodations, and per diem.