Women in Solomons politics

Earlier today I posted on ‘Being the First: Storis Blong Oloketa Meri Lo Solomon Aelan‘, which tells the stories of 14 trail-blazing women who reached senior positions in the Solomons Islands parliament and public service.

I thought I could also make a small contribution by discussing the participation of women in Solomons politics. All of the data cited below (and some additional tables) are available here.

Update (25/07/10): I have posted a list of women contesting the 2010 election here.

Women’s suffrage

My impression is that women were first able to vote in the 1967 national election. ‘Being the First’ seems to suggest that suffrage was achieved in 1963 when Clause 7(a) the Native Ordinance Bill gave people of 21 or more years of age the right to vote (p.20). However, it also states that ‘women began voting in 1967’ (p.23) and ‘in 1965, when only men could vote …’ (p.24).

Women in national elections

Around 65-73 women have contested one or more of the 12 national elections held between 1965 and 2006. My best guess is that the exact number is 67 (see Table 1). Most of these women (over 90%) contested one of the last four elections (1993, 1997, 2001 or 2006). In the previous 8 elections, there had only been 8 female contestants. (See the ‘Technical Issues’ section below for an explanation of my ‘best guess’.)

Since the 1990s, the number of female candidates has increased in absolute numbers and also as a percentage of total candidates. However, at their highest point in 2006, women still only constituted 5.8% of all candidates. In the three elections for which I have full election data (1993, 2001 and 2006), most of the female candidates came from Malaita or Guadalcanal. By constrast, there have been relatively few candidates from Western province.

Despite the increasing number of candidates, the vote achieved by female candidates appears to have declined in recent elections, from 11.8% (in 1993) to 8.0% (in 2001) to 6.5% (in 2006). This suggests that although the number of candidates has increased steadily, the number of ‘strong candidates’ has not followed suit. For example, suppose we (somewhat arbitrarily) define a ‘strong candidate’ as someone who achieves 10% or more of the vote. On this basis, there has only been a marginal increase in strong candidates from 1993 (4) to 2001 (5) to 2006 (6).

Table 1: female candidates & MPs, national elections 1965-2009

Election

Female candidates

Total candidates

Females/ total (%)

Vote for female candidates (%)

Female MPs

1965

1

?

?

?

1

1967

0

60

0

0

0

1970

0

52

0

0

0

1973

0

113

0

0

0

1976

0

175

0

0

0

1980

1

241

0.4

?

0

1984

2

251

0.8

?

0

1989

1

257

0.4

?

1

1993

9

280

3.2

11.8

1

1997

12

335

3.6

?

1

2001

15

328

4.6

8.0

0

2006

26

452

5.8

6.5

0

Total

67

2,544

2.6

?

4

Sources: ‘Being the First’ (2009), Table 7; Fraenkel, J (2008), ‘The impact of RAMSI on the 2006 elections‘, Table 6.2; and Solomons Parliament web site.

Elected national representatives

Of the 67 or so female candidates in national elections, only two women have been successful.

The first was Lily Ogatina Poznanski who, on 7 April 1965, was elected to the seat for Central Solomons in the Legislative Council. She held the seat between 1965 and 1967 but did not recontest (although she did run unsuccessfully for West Isabel in 1984). Her achievement is particularly remarkable because it appears that she won her seat despite the franchise being restricted to men only (Being the First, p.22). For more on Ogatina Poznanski, see my previous post.

The second was Hilda Thugea Kari, who served three terms, first as member for North-East Guadalcanal (1989-1993) and then as member for East-Central Guadalcanal (1993-2001). She was, at various times: Chair of DBSI; Minister for Energy, Minerals and Mines (in the Billy Hilly Government), Minister for Forests, Conservation and the Environment (in the Ulufa’alu government); and Minister for Women Youth and Sport (also in the Ulufa’alu government). She also ran unsuccessfully in the 2001 and 2006 elections.

[This paragraph revised on 15/05/10)] Kari entered parliament via a by-election held shortly after the 1989 general election. The original winner in North-East Guadalcanal, Waita Ben Tabusasi, vacated the seat when he was elected Speaker (see Islands Business Pacific, Sept. 1995, p.64; also the Solomons Parliament web site).

Elected provincial representatives

The first female representative elected at the provincial level was Vida Phillips, who served two terms in the Guadalcanal Council until she died in February 1975 (‘Being the First’, p.21). In all, at least nine women have been elected to Provincial Assemblies all of whom, apart from Ms Phillips, were elected in the last 10-15 years (see Table 2). Five are currently members of their provincial assemblies.

On 29 June 2009, the first woman was elected to the Western Provincial Assembly. Ms Victoria Sino Oloratavo won her seat impressively, gaining more than 80% of the vote. The seven other female candidates (out of a field of 172, for 26 seats) did not fare so well.

Table 2: female representatives in provincial assemblies or councils

Name Province Ward Term
Victoria Sino Oloravato Western Kusaghe Current, June 2009-
Anne Pugeva Rennell & Bellona ? Current
Nester Marahora Makira ? Current
Rhoda Sikilabu Isabel ? Current
Beverly Dick Isabel ? Current
Miriam Garo Malaita Waneagu 1999-2001
Rose Anilabata Malaita Buma 2002-2006
Vida Phillips Guadalcanal ? Two terms, until 1975
Rose Dettke Guadalcanal Saghalu 1997-2000

Sources: ‘Being the First’ (2009), pp.21-22 and Solomons Parliament press release (14 July 2009).

Technical Issues

I have referred to three data sources to determine the number of female candidates in national elections. The first is ‘Being the First’ (2009, Table 7), which includes a complete list of 69 candidates. The second is Fraenkel (2006, Table 6.2), which indicates the number of candidates in each election since 1980 (suggesting 66 candidates in total). Finally, I have referred to the election results for the 2001 election (originally published by SIBC and reproduced here) and the 2006 election (published in the Solomon Star and the Solomons Parliament web site).

Unfortunately, there are discrepancies for five of the elections (see Table 3). For . ‘Being the First’ and Fraenkel, respectively, the differences are: 1980 (1 vs 0), 1984 (2 vs 1), 1989 (1 vs 3), 1993 (9 vs 11) and 2001 (17 vs 13). Taking the lower and upper bounds of these variations gives the result quoted above, that 65-73 women have contested national elections.

As for my best guess, in the absence of further evidence, I’m inclined to accept the figures from ‘Being the First’ since they are more detailed. However, in 2001, two of the women listed by ‘Being the First’ ā€“ Keti Kaura (North West Malaita) and Christina Garo (East Honiara) ā€“ are not included in the SIBC election results. Excluding those two from the figures provided by ‘Being the First’ gives a total of 67 candidates.

Table 3: female candidates, national elections 1965-2009

Election

Being the First

Fraenkel

Harry

1965

1

1

1967

0

0

1970

0

0

1973

0

0

1976

0

0

1980

1

0

1

1984

2

1

2

1989

1

3

1

1993

9

11

9

1997

12

12

12

2001

17

13

15

2006

26

26

26

Total

69

66

67

Sources: ‘Being the First’ (2009), Table 7; Fraenkel, J (2008), ‘The impact of RAMSI on the 2006 elections‘, Table 6.2

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One Response to “Women in Solomons politics”

  1. JLatu Says:

    Interesting stuff here. I attended the book launch in Auckland and always meant to do some research on Solo women in parliament out of interest. Thanks for the the summary!

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