Women’s Political Empowerment and Leadership

Women and girls are underrepresented in the political arena, and shut out of decision-making that directly affects their lives. Increasing women’s political participation and leadership are vital mechanisms that support women to realize their human rights.

Pacific Island Countries have some of the lowest levels of representation of women in parliaments and local governments in the world. Regionally, women make up 5.4% of parliament compared to the global average of 21.8%. Additionally, the three countries in the world that have no women in parliament are located in the Pacific (at 2019).

The small size of most Pacific parliaments, and the correspondingly low number of ministerial and public official positions available, can present additional barriers for women.


The continued absence of women in decision-making and leadership in the Pacific further reinforces stereotypes, both amongst potential candidates and the general public, undermining efforts to build the skills, networks and confidence women need to change the game.

Progress is being made, however. President Hilda Heine was sworn into office in Marshall Islands in 2016 — the first woman elected as President of a Pacific Island country. In March of the same year, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in Samoa following an election, during which temporary special measures were applied at national level for the first time in the Pacific.

Additionally, in late 2014, Dr Jiko Luveni was appointed Speaker of the Parliament of Fiji – the first female in the history of Fiji to hold this office. Across the region, there has also been a slow but steady increase in the number of women standing for parliament and in the overall number of votes for women candidates.

Our Solutions

Through its Women’s Political Empowerment and Leadership Programme, UN Women works with regional partners to address country-specific barriers to women’s full political participation. It works with government and civil society organizations to help create an institutional and social environment that welcomes and supports women’s political participation, increasing the number of women candidates and enhancing their support networks.

As an example of the programme, Leadership training was provided to 45 potential women candidates in Vanuatu. The training covered how to engage in community consultation, campaign strategy, policy development and hands-on interview skills. Vanuatu’s municipal elections were held in January 2014. Five women were elected – all of them graduates of UN Women’s leadership training.

“This (UN Women leadership) training gave me the confidence I needed to continue with my campaign and now that I am in office, the leadership skills I need to manage the committees and progress issues I am involved in and care about.”    –  Newly elected Councillor, Vanuatu


UN Women has also facilitated the production of a radio series, A Time To Stand, in the Solomon Islands. This radio series aimed to educate communities about the impact of negative stereotypes toward womens in decision-making and leadership. A Time To Stand, tells a story based on the lives of many women considering or already standing for parliament and was produced by Pasifika Communications in Fiji, is part of the European Union-supported Strongim Mere project under UN Women’s Advancing Gender Justice program. Read more about UN Women programs to increase women’s participation in leadership and decision making.

As an organisation, UN Women Aotearoa New Zealand are open to new opportunities for innovative, partnered and sustainable projects that support women’s political empowerment and leadership locally, regionally and worldwide.

Please contact us if you are interested in working with us or donating to our cause.