Carol Kidu: How did I win, win and win again?

Dame Carol Kidu. PC: Sydney Morning Herald

By Danny Eric Agon

This is a complete transcript of Dame Carol Kidu’s Talk to the students of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). On 23 April 2021, the UPNG Political Science Students Association invited Dame Carol Kidu to give a talk on her time in Parliament, as part of their Political Science Seminar Series. This is a transcript of her talk, including her responses to the questions from the audience. Insights from this talk that are very useful for women [and men] contemplating contesting for elections. It covers strategies on how to win, consolidate political power, win again, and again. Tips on how to deal with male counterparts, when to take on ministerial portfolios, and when not to and be strategic. She also talks about the efforts in previous years to increase women representation in parliament, which is useful for understanding the recent announcement on the proposal for five regional reserve seats for women in PNG before the 2022 national elections.

Kidu was in Australia at the time, so she spoke to the students via zoom. Kidu represented Port Moresby South electorate in the National Capital District from 1997 to 2012. She resigned at the end of 2012. Below is a transcript of her talk.

Transcript of Kidu’s talk

 I saw the questions you wanted to ask about my experience in politics. I think perhaps I’ll start taking about the situations for women in politics according to our [PNG] Constitution. Constitution is our Mama Law [Mother Law]. Not our Papa Law [Father Law]! It’s our Mama law. The most powerful law in the country. And the Constitution is very clear, we have the National Goals and Directive Principles, National Goal 2 is on Equality and Participation. National Goal 2, Directive Principle 5 is very clear about the fact that women should have equal opportunities to be involved in all parts of the life, political, social, economic and religious areas of the life.

Our Constitution is very clear, about equality for women to have participation. If you go to section 50 of our Constitution, it actually talks about equal opportunity. For women to take part in all forms of political life in Papua New Guinea, section 50 of the Constitution.  AndI always say to my colleagues in Parliament

“ Its ok to say that women have an equal opportunity to stand but do women have equal opportunity to win?”

 And we all know the answer to that. Women do not have equal opportunity to win in politics in Papua New Guinea. And it’s not because men are better than women or women are better than men. It’s just that so many factors going against women trying to go into politics in Papua New Guinea.

We call ourselves a representative democracy but we are not a representative democracy in Papua New Guinea if half of the population has no representative in the parliament.  If we have 10% of the population are not represented in parliament, if disabled people, people with various forms of disability have no voice on the floor, I don’t think we are a representative Democracy when we wanted to be a representative democracy. 

So there is a big task ahead of us, and you [students] are extremely important. As young people, young men especially and young women to understand that it is extremely important to have women in decision making. You might know that the Chancellor of Germany, who would be our equivalent of our Prime Minister, just retired from her political career. She was really a leader. We have many Papua New Guinean women who can be real leaders, same as brilliant male leaders. And it’s just ridiculous to waste all that capabilities.  So that’s the first thing.

Second, our Constitution is very clear, and our Constitution allows for nominated seats. But we have never been able to get enough women on the floor of the parliament to be a critical mess. I was there most of my time, for the first 5 years [1997 – 2002] Josephine Abaijah and I were together in Parliament. For the last 10 years [2002 – 2012] I was there by myself. One person, one women on the floor of the Parliament is not enough. And after 2007 campaign, when I won, I truly thought there would be women on the floor with me, because we changed from First Past the Post to Limited Preferential Limited and I thought that would help women come onto the Floor but it didn’t because I was there by myself. And that’s why I decided to do very huge amount of lobbying to try to get women on the floor.

I always said when I won in 1997, I would do three (3) terms if the people of Moresby South would need me and I would retire. I didn’t want to stay in more than 15 years, I think we do what we can and should move on. When I found out that I am the only woman again in 2002. Being a naturalized citizen, I was not an indigenous woman of Papua New Guinea. We need indigenous women on the floor of the parliament. And so we lobbied, Not me, I didn’t do it, it was a coalition of women, the National Council for Women, Women in Politics, business and professional women, and many, many groups worked on the efforts we put in those 5 years. We tried to get women on the floor. 

The first thing we worked on, as you probably know, was the Reserved Seats. And there’s good things about Reserve Seats and there are also bad things about reserved seats. But as you know in Bougainville we do have reserve seats for three (3) women. And in the last election, we have three women elected for the reserve seats, plus Honorable Theolina [Theolina Roka Matbob] who won one of the Open Seats. She stood against man and she won so we have four (4) women in Bougainville [Bougainville House of Representatives]. We know that in our Motu Koita Assembly, I participated and passed legislation for the Motu Koita Assembly [when in parliament]. We have two women in our Motu Koitan assembly, elected through the two researve seats. 

In our Constitution, section 102 allows for elected people and nominated people. There is a provision for three nominated persons. It’s never been used yet in Papua New Guinea. Twice before me, two male MPs have tried to use that provision to nominate women to parliament but they did not succeed. 

We put a big process in place to try to put three women in parliament through section 102. We put expression of interest, like applying for a job, and we got in 78 applications to become nominated women of Parliament. A human resource company sorted them all. And then we had a penal of women from all sorts of organizations in Papua New Guinea who shortlisted 12 women [out of the 78 women applicants]. 

The panel was not just political organisations, we had Professor Betty Lovai from UPNG, she was on this penal and if you want, you could ask her about it. She was part of this panel. And this penal looked into the 78 applications, I never saw them because I never wanted any political interferences. And from there, 78 applications they trimmed it down to 12 for interview. One of the women was overseas so it ended with 11 women, who were interviewed. And they took that down to six (6) and out of the six, the Prime Minister and the leader for the opposition were meant to choose three (3) that they were both comfortable with to bring onto the floor of Parliament under of section 102 of the Constitution. 

Politics is a very funny game. I had actually heard from the Opposition leader at that time stating that they would support this. And just the night before the vote, they pulled plug on us. 

And so when we went to Parliament the next day and heard the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader went to look at the six (6) name, he informed us that they had decided that they would not support it. So that was very disappointing because we could have three (3) women there on the floor. It wasn’t that they were going there easily, they were qualified women but when it came tovote, the opposition didn’t put their numbers out. We didn’t have enough numbers because we need absolute majority to get it through. So that failed. 

And it’s [section 102] still there. Any Prime Minister could use that provision to bring some women on the floor of the parliament if they are really committed to have women on the floor of the Parliament. It’s there. The provision exists. 

At the same time, we were working on the reserved seats one; it was always going to be difficult. It had to be a by-election so we had to have an electoral boundary. We chose a provincial seat so there would be a governor, and a woman MP. It was the difficult one because to have an election, you have to have a boundary. It was very difficult and there are things against it but we did work really hard on it. Women did roadshows all across the country. There were lots and lots of awareness. Huge amount of awareness were done. 

We prepared folders for all members of the parliament and every member of the Parliament got a folder about what we were doing. We had supports from all sorts of women organizations from the churches, from overseas etc., so we had lots and lots of supports letters in the folders for the men. 

When it came to vote, the first section was to change the Constitution, to make a special provision in the Constitution for reserved seats to be added to section 101 of the Constitution. It had the provision number ‘d’  [section 101(d) of the Constitution] for special reserved seats.

 Now that got passed on the floor of the only required a simple majority. Women were rejoicing, they though it was finished. And that provision still exists in our Constitution since it was passed. Section 101 (d) of the Constitution says that there should be special reserved seats for women as define by an organic law. The organic law that was supposed to be passed would follow the provincial boundaries, creating 22 reserve seats. 

Then in 2011, as you know there was an overthrown of the government. The Late Sir Michael was in Singapore in hospital and Honorable Peter O’Neill took over the leadership of the government. And so Sir Michael started boycotting Parliament. I didn’t boycott because I was still running this legislation and I just sat in the middle benches till I became leader of the opposition of two people, which was a crazy situation. When it came to try to pass the organic we didn’t get the numbers. So again, that provision still exist in our constitution. Any committed prime minister could use that provision, section 101 (d), which allows for special seats for women as defined by an organic law. 

And that’s what they are working for, at present I believe, they are going to make 5 seats at regional level. Whether it get passed or not for 2022 I don’t know. But we don’t want another term of parliament which is zero number of women on the floor. So any of you who wants to do some lobbying, please do some lobbying for parliament to complete that work. I know they are working on it and to get it passed to allow for 5 women from regional level. And they would have a lot of help from parties because it’s very impossible for women to campaign over all regions. And so the partied would push forward the women.

So how did I end up in politics?

To be honest, I never voted [for any candidate] until I voted for myself. As you all would know, my late husband was a former Chief Justice of Papua New Guinea, and as a Chief Justice he made a conscious decision not to vote in election because he didn’t want to be all political so we never voted. Because he just never wanted to be political at all. Because he was very strong on the independence of the judiciary.  I actually never voted. I knew nothing about politics. Before my husband died in early 1994, after he had not being reappointed as Chief Justice, a lot of people were coming to him saying they wanted him to stand for politics . And he used to say to them “wait six months, come back to me and I’ll give you the answer.”

 He never answered people whether he would stand or not. After the day he died of a sudden heart attack, I guess I was extremely angry. I was angry because I felt it was very unfair because he would have been an exceptional politician. I stood because of that. I knew nothing about politics: I was a teacher by profession. 

I stood and if you think about it, I had a big advantage. I was a widow, a fairly recent widow of the late Chief Justice who had been very highly respected for his work. And so I had what you would call the ‘sympathy vote’. It was a sympathy vote that came in that helped me to win the first election in 1997. I worked very hard, I campaigned very hard, I had a superb campaign team but the sympathy vote was a big push for me to get into politics. And so there’s no doubt about that. 

Being Buri’s widow helped me stepped into politics, but then is it up to me to prove myself. My biggest interest in politics was to be parliamentarian and I tried to do as much as I could for the electorate in terms of social development like preschool works, Guinea Gada, upskills training for young people. 

I wasn’t a project type lady, and I never ever – and I’m very proud of this – had my name put on anything. Because it was not my money, it was the people’s money and each second year Moresby South would give vehicles to the police and they wanted to put my name on it – “donated by Dame carol Kidu, Member for Moresby South” –  and I would say:

 “No, if you do that I will not release the funds. It is not my money, if you put something on, ‘put donated by the people of Moresby South’”.

 Because I felt it is a very important thing that members should separate themselves from the money because it is not their money. So I focused more on policies, and parliamentary things. I focused not on projects so much but on programs like early childhood, skills training for youths, and women, HIV work and things on that.  I think it was the work with people at grass-root level like preschool that help me to win again and to win again two times. Perhaps the people heard about the policies work I was doing. I think some of them, particularly the urban people were aware that the real job of a politician is policies and legislations. And I did a lot of legislative reform, to do with violence against women, to do with rape, all of those areas of legislation were amended during my time. The Lukautim Pikinini Act was done during my time, the disabilities policies, the early childhood policy, and I focused a lot on policies. Some of them have never been implemented but at least they are there and some day they’ll get implemented. There’s nothing important about me going into parliament. I went it through ‘sympathetic votes.’ And I worked really hard to stay in. And I wanted all of you to be champions for women in politics. We need women in Parliament.

I will stop here and take questions.”

Questions from Students

 The first question from a student in the audience (Henry Murau):

As the female member of the parliament, what was the main challenge for you?”

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

As a female, the only female there, you’re kind of isolated.  When you are in the NEC, in the cabinet and have a ministry, you are part of that, but if you are not, you are kind of isolated from some of the things that are going on. I preferred to be isolated but sometimes it means you not really clear of the “games behind the games.” Politics is played on many levels. And I was never involved in the inner circles, even though all the people thought I was. I kept myself out of the inner circles and focus on my work. I didn’t particularly want to be inside the inner circles because you will hear things you don’t want to hear: some of the thing that goes wrong in politics in every country of the world, not just Papua New Guinea. So I just focused on things on my ministry and work on that. 

I would say here that I am very grateful for late Sir Michael Somare. Because he gave me the opportunity to serve as a minister and in politics, especially to become a minister, your party should have like three members on the floor, to be given one ministry. Six members, you are given give two ministries. Nine members, your party gets three ministries.  That’s how it is done. It is not about who is the best person to do the job. It’s about the numbers game of politics. And what numbers the coalition would be. And in 2007, I was part of the Melanesian Alliance Party. I was not part of Sir Michael’s party. We had only 3 members, and so we should only get one ministry. Sir Moi Avei [member of Melanesian Allliance Party] was a senior politician than me, and he became deputy prime minister. He also had a senior ministry, but Michael also gave me a ministry. I can tell you there were many men objecting because they said: 

“They [Melanesian Alliance] don’t have enough numbers, she should not be given a ministry.” 

But Sir Michael stood completely firm, saying, “sorry gentlemen this is non-negotiable, she will be in my cabinet.”

 And if you think about it, Sir Michael appointed the first female minister of Papua New Guinea, the late Nahau Rooney. He was very quietly, supportive of women. And in 2002 and in 2007 it was the same, I was the only person in the Melanesian Alliance who won. I was a 1-person party but he still gave me a ministry even though we didn’t have the numbers. I was very grateful because sir Michael was very proactive and gave me the opportunity to do the work I did in the ministry that I had. And I always acknowledge him for that because if you are not in a ministry, there are not many opportunities to change policies and legislations.

Second question from a student in the audience: 

“From your experience as a long term female parliamentarian in Papua New Guinea, what would you say is the main blockage for the indigenous female Papua New Guinean women to become a parliamentarian?”

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

It’s a huge question and there’s a lot of writing done about it. Number one, it has nothing to do with the capabilities of women, the indigenous women. They are capable of being very good politicians. But is more to do with the mindset of the communities, and things like that. The communities in general don’t see politics as something for women. They don’t see it as suitable place for women. They see politics as something for men. Because traditionally, it was mainly men who went out and did the speeches, did the public distribution as in a feast, and bride prices and things like that. But we all know that behind the scenes, women had a lot of influences. And we still haven’t got those communities mindset change. But its ok for women to be in the public spheres as leader as well. And it’s the community that votes and I believe our push forward to have women into politics… yeah we can try the reserved seats as well, but its really important that people like yourself go back to your communities and try to influence some mindsets of the community. You know very well that in your communities, many women are great leaders. It has to begin with change in the mindset of the people because it’s the people who vote. I really think the mindset is a really big problem. 

The other big problem is that politics has sadly got into money politics in Papua New Guinea. When I stood for politics in 1997, money politics wasn’t very strong. But by the time I did my last campaign in 2007, I had to fundraise a lot of money, but then it wasn’t enough to try to run the campaign.  That’s not money for bribery, or giving out money. And we all know there’s a lot of money politics being played in the political game in Papua New Guinea, It’s illegal but It happens and so that is a very hard thing for women too. Most women don’t have that type of financial backup to fund their campaign. Papua New Guinea is a very hard country to campaign in to try to get all around your electorate. 

Again I was very lucky, I was in Moresby South. I could drive around my all electorate in one day whereas women who are standing in rural remote areas, it’s very hard for them to get around to the communities.  And she needs to partner with the males, get other people on how she would get around to actually campaign. So the money factor is a very hard factor for women in politics, there’s big money played. 

Another factor is that parties don’t like to endorse women. Parties want to endorse winners because that’ll get them into chance of being Prime Minister. If they get enough people, they can become the Prime Minister as the party leader. So they often don’t want to endorse women because they feel the women are not winners. And so there’s legislative reform happening at present, you might know about it, again you can lobby for this. Dr. Alphonse Gelu [Registrar for Office of Integrity of Political Parties & Candidates Commission] who is very strong in his work with the political party integrity commission and they put through a legislation that all partied must at least endorse 20% females. It hasn’t been passed yet, hope it will be passed. So the political parties should also take responsibilities for trying to get women into politics. Because women can do a very good job, once they are there, they need the backup as well. It’s not an easy job. Actually it’s very hard. And you need to make sure that there are enough people there to help them and backed them up. 

When I was in politics, I wish I had a very big research team around me but I didn’t have that. I had to rely on doing a lot of research myself. So as woman going in, please other women and men help them with the knowledge and research that they need. Because in national politics, they need to understand policies, they need to understand laws and understand what they are going there for. And I’m sure most of them do know what they going in for. As for me, I knew what I wanted to influence before I went in and the other things which I focused on.  I didn’t do them all but I got some of them done. 

So number 1: please go out to your communities and convince your communities its ok to vote for women. Convince your women not to vote for money. It doesn’t give you the best person necessarily. Convince your people to look at the qualities of the person that is going in and look at whether they will really care about the people. And don’t become part of the money politics.

Third questions from a student: 

‘You said you were not able to win/lobby about equality of representation for women in the parliament – the reserved seats for women. Is it because the members did not understand the Constitution – about equality – is it because you were a dual national in the parliament, and that it was some kind of a racism in the parliament that you could not be able to convince the members. 

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

I am a naturalised citizen; dual citizen cannot stand for parliament. And that was to my advantage in many ways. It wasn’t racism. In fact, some males used to say to me and I found this disgraceful. They said to me “we don’t mind you being here but we don’t want our own women in here.” And now you think about that, that’s a terrible statement. They didn’t mind me in there, but they wouldn’t want their own women in parliament. I will leave you to think about that. That statement said to me by several members. 

The actual vote fell in the end because the parliament had fallen apart because of the VONC against the late Sir Michael Somare by Peter O’Neill and there weren’t enough members on the floor of the parliament to pass the organic law. But even if there had been more members on the floor, it would have been a hard vote to get through because a lot of men were not comfortable with that. Particularly because it was 22 seats. The present work being done is 5 seats – 5 regional seats. 

I don’t see not passing that has as a failure. There was a huge amount of advocacy done, a huge amount of lobbying. And if you think about it, in 2012, three women actually won because of it. After all that efforts and the tidal waves, and there were videos on television saying, “tell your member to vote for the legislation.” And as a result of that, three women did win, because it was enormous; lobbying, advocacy, raising about awareness. And since then, the lobbying and awareness die away. In 2017 those three women lost their seats so we ended up with no women in the parliament now.  That’s a sad outcome and we got to make sure the same doesn’t happen in 2022. I believe they will be some women win in 2022 by the normal process. But I hope there would be some reserved seats to at least increase the number of women. Covid-19 has made it very difficult to make a lot of awareness, and lobbying but I do feel some of the women who stand in 2022 are going to make it. They’ll be excellent politicians. 

A fourth question sent to Dame Kidu through chat box in zoom: 

“The number of women who contested in 2017 was only 6% of the total candidates. Is it possible that the low or no demale MPs wining in elections has to do with very low number of female contestants?

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

Actually the number of women contesting has increased. Every election it has increased but is far fewer than men which is true. And I’ve been saying to women:

 “if you’re interested, just go for it. Put your name on it. It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, just make a very clear statement that women want to be in there. Get people to help you pay the nomination fee, campaign the best as you can. Don’t worry about money just make that statement we want to be in there.” 

And I think I would like to see as many as possible contesting so that the numbers go up a lot more. It would probably increase the chances of winning.

Another question sent to Dame Kidu through chat box in zoom: 

“What would be your adivse to young women who may be interested in contesting in an election in the future?”

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

You have to have determination. Enormous determination. You have to be willing to diplomatically argue your points, not confrontationally. In Papua New Guinea I wouldn’t do confrontational arguments with men because it’s uncomfortable for men and we know that. But you have to learn how you could diplomatically developing your arguments on why you are going there and it’s really important to know what you want to do. Why you going into politics? What are the things that you wanted to influence? If you are women, do you want to improve the maternal mortality rate? Five women would have died in Papua New Guinea today giving birth. And maternal Mortality rate is really high. Do you want to work on that issue and try to improve reproductive health system of women or do you want to work on economic empowerment of women? Or do you just want to work on women and man issues? And I would say we got to work on people issues, not just women issues. Because women issues are men issues and I think it’s important we don’t isolate the men, and make it a women issue. We got to work with men.

Sixth question from a student (Kuson Madelyn):

 “What would be your personal views on why the three female parliamentarians elected in 2012 did not come back in the next term of the parliament (2017)?

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

I really can’t comment on that; I did not study the politics of their electorates. I think HON. Delilah Gore came very close to coming back and she only missed out on a very small number of votes. I think HON. Louzaya and HON. Julie were further down in the actual placings but HON. Delilah Gore was very close but it was very sad that she did not get back in. I can’t comment on why   people decided not to vote for them again. It’s very hard to maintain your support base and you got to focus on that as well. 

Seventh question (Russel Yangin):

 “What do you think how the women should behave inside parliament: should they be leaning towards the more masculine and the big men side of politics or should they be reserved to the roles of the Melanesian women, as a motherly figure? 

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

I will say I think what help me to win and win and win in election again is that I was seen by the people as ‘moms’ [mum] to all. The young fellows and everyone they call me mums. “ Mama Bilong Moresby South [Mother of Moresby South].” It’s part of my personality but I deliberately cultivated that image.

 I think it’s very important that women portray an image that people expect of them as women. But that can be very demanding on the women because like they see you as a mother, they expect from you what they shouldn’t be expecting from you, like providing rice, providing daily needs and all of those things. 

One thing I was disappointed about when the three (3) women won of the 2012 is that they very quickly went into ministries.  When I won in 1997, even if I would have been offered a ministry, I would have said NO! My first aim was to consolidate my electorate and I think it is a very important thing for both men and women, but particularly women. First aim is consolidate in your electorate and worry about ministries when you get back in again because once you are a minister, you have to be in Moresby almost every week. You are never back in your electorate, hardly. Because as cabinet member, there’s always meetings and things. 

Now there again, if you look at me, it was a big advantage for me. My electorate was in the capital city and so I could be attending to my ministerial duties after 2002, as well as getting out into my electorate. I made deliberate decision in 1997, when a woman, who is a political activist who was running around trying to lobby for ministry [for me]. And I kept saying to her, “stop it, you wasting your time, I’m not interested.”

 I just wanted to get my electorate sorted first. And I think we got to be careful about that because I was actually worried when they become ministers and things like that because it takes you away from your electorates and it’s your electorate who’s going to vote you back or not vote you back. So what I’m saying here is that you have to be very strategic, you got to think about it all the time. It might sound brave to be a minister but it takes your away from your electorate.  Leave it until you consolidate it and you really establish yourself in your electorate. And I think that’s one of the problem they faced is that perhaps they did not consolidate in their electorates enough.

Eighth question (from Peggy] 

“How did you stay in parliament for three terms?”

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

You have to keep very close to your electorate, and people.  In Papua New Guinea, that special relationship with your electorate is extremely important and that’s very demanding that I wouldn’t want to stand again. I always said three terms and that’s it. I was exhausted at the end of it because I think people expect more from women than from men in some ways, so my advice is, one:

 You have to get yourself establish. Spending your first term in your electorate getting yourself establish and then to get into ministry. There are other ways you can influence policies. Like in my first term, when there was a vote of no confidence and the late Sir Mekere Moratau became the Prime Minister, and I said there was this lady running around trying to lobby for me to be a minister, and I said I’m not interested. I have to get my electorate sorted out first. 

But I did go and asked,  “Could chair a parliamentary committee?” 

And I established a parliamentary committee; it was a special Parliamentary Committee on Urbanization and Social Development. It meant that under that parliamentary committee, and chairing that, I set the terms of reference, and Sir Mekere was very happy for me to just go off with doing things like that but it meant that I was doing a lot of consultations about urbanizations, and the issues of urbanizations, and then I actually put my documents to the floor and so I was being seen and heard in the newspapers without being a minister. 

You don’t always have to be a minister. You got to work out how you could use the processes of the parliament to be seen and heard and I think people don’t do that enough, they just get up in question time. Even men, men do that too. You don’t hear many people putting forward matters of public importance.   Which I tried to do in my first term and trying to really use the committee system. The committee system in Papua New Guinea in not really used enough and so I was getting noticed because I was doing committee work, and at the same time I was also in my electorate doing lots of work in my electorate. I wasn’t going to cabinet meetings. So it’s all about being strategic and working out how you could be noticed, how you could be noticed but in the right way. 

I started to do sometimes which I was not popular for and I left them all to my final term in politics because I knew they would be very contentious. Things like looking at old 1600s legislations from England that I think needs to go and it wasn’t popular but I left it to my final term because I knew it wouldn’t be popular. In other words, you got to use the processes of the parliament for your advantages. Being the widow of a highly respected man gave me the advantage.

Ninth Question

A lot of women have contested but not elected into parliament, only three (3) successful women in 2012. How do they manage to get elected three times?”

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

A lot of really hard work. I want to point out there were three women straight after independence: the late Nahau Rooney, Dame Josephine Abaijah, and Waliyato Clowes. I think many of you wouldn’t know Waliyato Clowes. She was a very young woman, and she was the Member of the Parliament straight after parliament after independence. These were 3 women. Then it went back to one woman. And then it went to zero, zero, and then two and then one, one, three and now zero. And so there were three women at the beginning of our nationhood. The late Nahau Rooney who became the first female minister of Papua New Guinea which lot of people forget that. She was Minister for Justice, she was Minister for Civil Aviation, and Minister for Forestry at one stage.

Tenth question 

“Did you have a hand or play a part in the recent amendments to the Divorced Act, the 2020 amendments making women liable to pay 50% of all savings and assets after it divorced if the women involved in extra marital affairs?”

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

No I’m not even aware of this legislation. And this is discriminatory. 

I don’t see any point to make polygamy illegal. To make a custom illegal, it wouldn’t work. But what we should do is to have legislation that will protect polygamy from the abuse. Because in a traditional polygamy, a man had to look after everyone and the children and I have no problems with that. But when a man dumps his first wife and gets another that is wrong, and we have to look at the abuse of polygamy. 

Eleventh question 

What was the feeling when you first entered the parliament that was dominated by men?

Dame Carol Kidu’s Response

When I first entered the Parliament in 1997, it was myself and Dame Josephine Abaijah. we were together in 1997 to 2002.  When Dame Josephine Abaijah and I won in 1997, there had been 10 years, two terms of Parliament with zero women, and so I think the men are little bit uncomfortable but very respectful for both of us because Dame Josephine was one of our icons in the early days. Long term politician. And the feeling I think once you win by elective process, is accepted by the men but the disadvantage that women have is because of only one or two women there they can’t form or force a strong lobby together on issues that are important to women, to families, to people of things of common interests. I would say that my colleague men have been very supportive for the work that I’ve been doing.


Danny Eric Agon is a final year Political Science Student at the University of Papua New Guinea. We thank Dan for his effort in transcribing and editing Dame Carol Kidu’s talk.


Published by Academia Nomad

Blogs on politics, economics and social issues in simple language.

5 thoughts on “Carol Kidu: How did I win, win and win again?

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