In a first, Bougainville’s newly elected President has appointed two female cabinet ministers on Friday, October 2,2020. President Ishmael Toroama named Theonila Roka Matbob as the minister of education and Yolande Geraldine Paul as the primary industries and marine resources minister. Bougainville, which is an autonomous part of Papua New Guinea, is one of the three countries in the world that has no female lawmakers. Hence the appointment of women in the cabinet ministry is the country’s significant move towards mobilising women in politics.
“I have appointed two female members to the cabinet to ensure there is recognition of the dynamic role that our women have in Bougainville society,” said Toroama, as quoted by The Reuters. He also said, “I am confident that these two women leaders will perform exceptionally in their new roles as key ministers in this government.”
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Toroama was earlier a rebel military commander who got elected as the President of the country in September 2020. This was the first general election held in Bougainville since the time in the last year when the region started demanding separation and freedom from Papua New Guinea. After being elected, Toroama will be leading the freedom movement of Bougainville, home to 250,000 people.
Both the women ministers have a specification in different professions. Paul is an active participant in the agricultural initiatives of Bougainville and has also played a pivotal role in reviving the cocoa industry. Recently, she was sworn in as the member of Central Bougainville Women. Whereas, Matbob ran a community education centre. She is a 29-year-old graduate and a relative of Bougainville’s first President Joseph Kabui. She reportedly beat 15 men to win a seat in this general election.
Matbob is one of the many young ministers appointed by the President. “I believe that by promoting our young talent in all aspects, we help to create a vibrant and energetic environment for them to be more innovative and fully grow to realise their potential,” he said.
Political analysts have concluded that the appointment of women candidates is an important move towards increasing the representation and role of women in the government.
Bougainville has three reserved seats for women candidates in the 39-member parliament. And according to the analysts, Bougainville should at least appoint one woman leader in the cabinet ministry. Bougainville fares better than Papua New Guinea in terms of women’s representation in politics as it has been encouraging women politicians since the end of the civil war in 1998.
Other Significant Woman Politicians of Bougainville
Hon Semoso was elected into Bougainville’s Parliament in 2005. After civil war, Semoso joined Bougainville Constitutional Commission in 2003 and campaigned for reserved seats for women. Later when the parliament provided three reserved seats for women politicians, she herself got elected in the North Bougainville Women’s Constituency seat in 2005. She served as Deputy Speaker and was one among three women representatives in a Parliament of 40 MPs. She also served as the Deputy Chairperson on the Standing Order Committee and on the Parliament Business Committee.
Hon Josephine Getsy
Josephine Getsy was the first woman to win an open seat in the Bougainville House of Representatives in 2015 from Piet Constituency. She is the Community Development Minister in the government of John Momis, the former President of Bougainville from 2010 to 2020.
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