In October I spent a week in Port Moresby interviewing some of PNG's newly elected MPs for the Lowy Institute's Leadership Mapping Project. This work continues our earlier survey work in PNG which was interrupted by the constitutional crises in late 2011 and early this year. The elections in June 2012 confirmed Peter O'Neill as prime minister and seem to have stabilised PNG's notoriously volatile democracy.
The first interview in this latest series was with Deputy Opposition Leader The Hon Sam Basil MP, who has teamed with former Deputy PM Belden Namah to lead the somewhat diminutive 17-member opposition to the O'Neill Government.
In this interview I talk with Julie Soso, the newly elected Governor of the Eastern Highlands province. Julie Soso is a member of the Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party, which is part of the governing coalition led by Prime Minister O'Neill. Before becoming a governor and an MP, Soso was a radio broadcaster and a powerful advocate for the issues and inequities confronting women in PNG. In our interview, Soso maps her rise in PNG politics, discusses the challenges for women in PNG and candidly considers the influence of her father on her public life.
Soso is one of only three women currently sitting in the 111-seat House. This extreme gender imbalance continues the historical male dominance in PNG's parliament; Soso is only the seventh woman elected to parliament since PNG became independent in 1975. The three female MPs (the others are Delilah Gore and new Minister for Community Services Loujaya Toni, who unseated her uncle, elder statesman Bart Philemon) represent an increase of 300% in the female representation from PNG's last parliament, in which Dame Carol Kidu was the sole female MP.
For PNG watchers: Tomorrow at the Lowy Institute, The Hon Peter O'Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, will give a public address titled 'Papua New Guinea in the Asian Century'. More information on what promises to be an important speech outlining the role in regional affairs this fast-growing economy will play, click here.