September, 2013 (Koror, Palau) – “I hope that this Mock Congress exercise will give the participating women the confidence to realize their potential as leaders in Palau, and can give them the courage to put up their names and stand for national elections.” These were the encouraging remarks from Senator Uduch Sengebau-Senior, during the Mock Congress for Women in Palau. Senator Sengebau-Senior is one of only three women in the Palau Congress.
The second Palau Mock Congress for women is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs and the Olbiil Era Kelulau (National Congress). The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women provided technical and funding support for the second mock congress held in Palau.
The second Mock Congress for women was organized as part of national efforts to raise awareness on the issue of women’s participation in political life and to build the capacity and confidence of potential women candidates ahead of the State elections, and national elections in 2016. Eleven Palau women representing at least 10 of the 16 States of Palau had the opportunity to experience firsthand what it feels like to be a Member of the Olbiil Era Kelulau.
The Mock Congress for women consisted of a two and a half day training followed by a one-day mock congress and ran from 2-6 September. The women underwent training on both substantive legislative issues relevant to Palau, as well as on the procedures underpinning the work of the National Congress. The participants had an opportunity to review five draft Bills currently before Congress from a gender perspective and made concrete alternative suggestions on how the Bills could be strengthened.
During the day of the Mock Congress held inside the Olbiil Era Kelulau Senate chambers, the participants then put their skills into practice through a mock debate and amendment of the draft bills.
“With women only making up 5% of parliamentarians, the Pacific is the region with the lowest proportion of women in Parliament in the world. I hope that this Mock Congress will encourage women in Palau to run for Congress and in the future, more women in Palau will be elected and take their rightful place in the arena of national decision making,” said Dyfan Jones, UNDP Pacific Centre’s Regional Parliamentary Specialist.
The Republic of Palau became signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2011. In the same year, 14 women participated in the first ever Mock Congressfor Women in Palau. One of these women is now the current Minister for Community and Cultural Affairs, Minister BaklaiTemengil.
The Small Island States officials meeting in 2010 highlighted the need to provide adequate training for women to strengthen their chances for getting elected into their national parliament. As a result of that outcome document, PIFS and UNDPhave partnered to organize Mock or Practice Parliaments for women in the Pacificto promote women’s political participation. Mock Parliaments previously also took place in Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands,and Papua New Guinea.