09 Mar “This is the people’s Parliament”
Apia, Samoa. 9 March, 2017. Editorial. I can remember as a child, going with my father to our village at Lefaga so he could attend the Village Council meeting. Us kids would sit outside the fale, idly listening to snatches of the conversation, being #faikala, in between being sent to run errands – as the leaders of the community would discuss, debate and make decisions that affected us all. (And then we would quickly grow bored and sneak off to do far more interesting things. Like catch eels in the mangrove swamp. It’s probably why he didn’t take us with him very often.)
Looking back now, I can appreciate the example that was being set for all us children and youth, hanging around the open meeting house. The process of governance, of maintaining peace, law and order – was something immediately accessible and something that real people that we knew participated in. There was laughter, sometimes raised angry voices, often serious faces, and many times, long rambly speeches and avid discussions. I didn’t know it then, but we were being taught valuable lessons about leadership, decision-making and compromise.
I was reminded of those childhood experiences as I looked through the images of school children visiting Parliament this week. I marvelled to see them watching a Parliamentary session, sitting only a few feet away from the MPs as they discussed, debated and made decisions that affect us all. In that moment, there seemed for these youngsters, to be no barrier separating them from the leaders of our nation. The process of governance was something immediately accessible. Not something mysterious, distant and unreachable.
Unlike me though, these youth didn’t grow bored and have to sneak away to look for proverbial eels to catch in a Tuanaimato stream somewhere!
Thanks to the creative, brilliant staff of the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly (OCLA), the students participated in a series of hands-on, engaging and fun presentations, learning about how laws are made and how government works. The emphasis was on how we can engage with our Parliament and the law-making process. At all times the children were reminded that Parliament must be ‘The Voice of the People’.
The children got to hear from different parliamentarians and OCLA staff. Not just the children, but their teachers too. Questions were encouraged. Discussion was welcomed from the children and the adults.
Unlike me, these children also got to see women participating in the governance process this week. I can’t remember a single woman matai in my Dad’s village council meetings, from 30-something years ago. The women were the ones supervising the cooking and organising the serving of refreshments (and telling us off for making too much noise and disturbing the Fono.)
We only have a handful of women Parliamentarians today, but how valuable it is for our young girls AND boys to see the country being governed by both women and men. And to be instructed in this week’s workshops by a range of speakers.
Seeing all the young women engaging in the program, I am hopeful that the sparks of leadership and community activism were being lit, and we will see many more women going into politics in the future.
Malo lava to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Ms Charlene Malele, and her fabulous team for a great program this week.
Thank you also for providing an informative Parliament of Samoa website and Facebook page which is updated regularly. It’s an excellent resource for learning about Parliament and the laws that are being worked through.
As Ms Malele herself has said, “This is the people’s Parliament”.
And for a few hundred school children this week – it truly was.