ABC News reported on June 3 that Josephine Getsi was elected the member for Peit constituency in Buka - after securing 368 votes more than her nearest rival and beating 11 men for the job. The election was held on May 11, with a total of 342 candidates running for 33 constituent seats, three reserved seats for women in parliament, three reserved for former combatants, and the seat of president.
The three seats reserved for women were won by Hellen Siumana, Marcelline Kokiai, and Isabel Peta. Radio NZ reported they were among 23 women who ran for these reserved seats. Furthermore, Josephine Getsi was one of 11 women who ran for the open seats - signalling a new era for women’s empowerment in the region. This was close to double the number who ran for open seats in the last election!
Discussing the significance of Ms Getsi’s win, Helen Hakena, from the Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency, said that the milestone win would send a powerful message to all: that women can contest open seats, and that there are many voters who have confidence in women’s leadership. Ms Hakena said:
"Josephine's win will show the rest of Papua New Guinea that women in PNG can be in parliament, they can participate equally in parliament with men and they can contribute to the development in the country, particularly here in Bougainville."
FROM TEACHER TO POLITICAL CANDIDATE
Josephine Getsi was reportedly stunned at her campaign’s victory, moved to tears by the historic win. Marta Jasinska of the International Women’s Development Agency notes on PNG Today here that Josephine had participated in leadership training designed to encourage and support women candidates, and two mock parliament trainings, in the lead-up to the election.
The training is offered by The Bougainville Women’s Federation (BWF), supported by International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), and funded by the Netherlands Government’s Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) program, in conjunction with the Canada Fund. Reflecting on Josephine Getsi’s development throughout BWF’s FLOW-funded leadership training, Barbara Tanne - Executive Director of BWF - remarked:
“During the training Josephine was one of the quietest participants - in most cases underestimating herself, but was so enthusiastic about getting into the parliament and leading her people - especially the women who are often left behind. After learning the tactics and effective campaign strategies, she assured me that she was empowered and was ready to face the challenges…She mentioned that she will get BWF to train her officers and further mentor her if she needs help.”
Yesterday morning, in a brief ceremony at the ABG House of Representatives, Bougainville’s re-elected President Dr. John Momis announced that Josephine would be a member of the caretaker government. Congratulations, Josephine. May you and other female candidates inspire greater participation of women and girls in the democratic process!
WORDS by Pauline Vetuna.
IMAGE 1: Newly-elected MP Jospephine Getsi, President John Momis, Vice President Patrick Nisira (credit: Aloysius Laukai, Manager New Dawn FM 95.3)
IMAGE 2: Flag of Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
IMAGE 3: Officials counting the votes (credit: Twitter - Bougainville News)