As Vanuatu heads to the polls this week, 17 women will be standing for election.
These women are hoping to challenge a status quo that has seen Vanuatu become one of just three nations in the world with no women currently elected to their parliament.
The Leleon Vanua Democratic Party, Vanuatu’s first women-led political party, was leading the way in recent months, hoping to see a record number of women elected to parliament this election.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of financial backing, the party recently decided not to contest this election, hoping to return for the next in 2024.
The party’s decision to pull out of the election has not stopped women from putting themselves forward , many are running as independents or with other parties.
Andrina Komala Lini Thomas, the president of the Leleon Vanua Democratic Party, told the ABC, the party tried very hard to continue.
“We did dinner dances, we did kava sales, we did ice cream sales, we did sausage sizzle sales — we didn’t even make enough money,” she said.
In the two latest elections in 2012 and 2016, not one woman was elected to parliament, sparking a concerted push for more women to be elected this year.
28-year-old Litiana Kalsrap, a youth leader and climate activist, is believed to be the youngest candidate standing. In 2018, she was recognised with a Queen’s Young Leaders Award, for her work engaging young people in social and environmental change.
Last month, @QueensLeaders Litiana Kalsrap collected her Award from Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace for the work that she is doing in Vanuatu to help her community.#QueensYoungLeaders #VanuatuIndependenceDay pic.twitter.com/cRyc9hzrzW
— DiamondJubileeTrust (@qejubileetrust) July 30, 2018
“I’ve heard indirectly that ‘she’s too young’, ‘she doesn’t understand politics’, ‘she should wait until the next election in 2024’. I expected criticism, so it’s not a big deal,” Kalsrap told the Guardian.
“But from the most of the women and the youth, I have been given support. I’ve known ever since I started doing volunteer work in 2010 that 2020 was going to be my year to contest.”
With a field of nearly 240 candidates, Vanuatu will elect 52 members of parliament. With a large spectrum of political parties, coalition governments are a normal part of the political scene.