Koror – Elected women officials in the various levels of government in the Republic of Palau convened at the first ever “Meeting of Women in Elected Leadership” on Wednesday, 20 September 2023, supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Thirty-three women members of the Senate, House of Delegates, State Executives and State Legislatures of Palau came together to reflect on issues of women’s political representation and to recommend actionable changes to support women’s empowerment in decision-making institutions. All legislatures in the 16 state governments of Palau were represented at this meeting. In the Republic of Palau, there are a total of 42 women elected into national and state executive and legislative offices and 78.5% of these women attended this inaugural meeting.
Honorable Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau Senior, who is Palau’s second female Vice President, in her opening statement highlighted that, “Women’s representation in public office and law-making bodies is a key pillar of democracy and is critically important to achieving Palau’s developmental objectives.”
“It is my hope that this congregation will lead to long-term, sustainable networks that can gather regularly to discuss these fundamental issues women in government are faced with today and identify ways we can advance the empowerment of women through mutual understanding and collaborative effort,” Vice President Senior added.
While women currently do, and have in the past, served in various executive and legislative roles at both National and State levels in Palau, their numbers have been relatively low compared to men. “Being a woman in elected office in Palau is a daunting and lonely experience. The Meeting of Women in Elected Leadership in Palau provided an opportunity, a safe space, for these women to share their views, challenges and successes on their journey to elected leadership roles. I felt a sense of solidarity among sisters who understood each other, and who have confronted the same pressures in juggling the responsibilities of personal, family, public and community obligations” said Honorable Vice President Senior.
“Historical data and evidence show that having more women in elected government leads to better representation outcomes, a greater emphasis on consensus-based decision making and more investments in traditionally overlooked areas such as education and health care,” said Yohan Senarath, IOM Micronesia Head of Sub Office in Palau. He added that, “women’s participation in politics and public office strengthens democracy and helps foster inclusive, prosperous and resilient societies.”
The women elected officials attending the meeting reflected on some of the challenges they have encountered in becoming and then being elected to office, including facing opposition to passing pro-women bills and limitations to good governance and accountability.
The meeting participants agreed that fair representation in –leadership and law-making bodies in Palau would contribute to meaningful discourse and support much-needed legislative reform regarding critical issues such as maternity leave, minimum wage and strengthening informal markets which are usually dominated by women.
“The inaugural Meeting of Women in Elected Leadership in Palau on September 20, 2023 was a resounding success! Thank you to IOM Palau office and the US Embassy for supporting this meeting” stated Honorable Vice President Senior.
The meeting resulted in an agreement to establish a network of women elected leaders in Palau which will convene in January 2024.