Five Australian politicians will help mentor Pacific Island women at a leadership forum in Tonga.
Anna Burke will no longer grumble about door knocking in the rain during election campaigns.
Rhoda Sikilabu, a female political candidate from the Solomon Islands, shadowed federal parliament’s former Speaker and her volunteer team in the lead-up to last September’s federal poll.
The soggy Melbourne conditions didn’t phase Ms Sikilabu, who vowed to employ the campaign technique for her country’s election, due in October 2015 – albeit with a Pacific spin.
She was going to get her canoe fixed so she could paddle down crocodile-infested waters and then climb mountains to visit remote villagers.
“She wasn’t joking,” Ms Burke told AAP on Wednesday.
The Labor MP recounted the anecdote ahead of her trip to Tonga for a Pacific women’s leadership forum starting on Thursday.
The event is aimed at helping to boost female political representation in Pacific countries which is at the lowest level in the world at less than four per cent – well below the global average of 21 per cent.
Some Pacific parliaments have no females representatives at all.
“If you empower women you can empower whole communities,” Ms Burke said.
Government MPs Sharman Stone, Nola Marino and Jane Prentice and Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja will also take on mentoring roles at the forum with about 30 Pacific women attending.
Dr Stone said campaign fundraising was a big issue for female candidates who did not have enough cash to campaign across different islands, lavish voters with gifts or pay for ferry tickets so voters could get to polling booths.
“There’s a cultural bias that women will be seen and not heard,” she said.
Ms Prentice said Julie Bishop, Australia’s first female foreign minister, and former prime minister Julia Gillard provided inspiring examples.
The former Brisbane City councillor encourages Pacific women to cut their teeth in local government and build up experience and a public profile to help in their bids for higher office.
* The Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum runs from July 17-21.