Voters’ Perceptions of Women as Leaders in Tonga

‘Ungatea Fonua Kata
Vanessa Lolohea

The study adapted a survey questionnaire which Ms. ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Director of Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC), had developed in 2016, to support her Master of Law thesis. Ms Guttenbeil-Likiliki’s research investigated why there continues to be a low number of women representatives in parliament, even though there were democratic changes to Tonga’s constitution in 2010 and 2014.

In this study, questionnaires were given to 1000 men and women in all of the main islands of Tonga, including Tongatapu, Vava’u, Ha’apai, ‘Eua and voters of the isolated islands of Niua Toputapu and Niua Fo’ou.

In line with the Guttenbeil-Likiliki’s study, this research found:

  • 61% of respondents considered that the Tonga family unit, “fāmili” is hierarchical, with men at the top of the hierarchy and therefore at the head of the Tongan family.
  • 69% of respondents considered that mothers/women should stay at home with children while fathers/man should attend and participate in village (fono) meetings.
  • 58% of respondents considered it appropriate that the father/man should go to work while the working mother/woman should stay home to look after a sick child.
  • 80% of respondents felt that a woman, staying in her husband’s village, could participate in village meetings if she has been involved in village activities.
  • 65% of respondents considered that it was inappropriate for a mother to advise her husband to allow his daughters to inherit his land.
  • 52% of respondents considered that it was appropriate for a Tongan mother to be a wage earner while the father remains at home to conduct domestic chores.
  • 66% of respondents believed that fathers and mothers should have equal access to financial income.
  • 80% of respondents recognized the privileged role of “mehekitanga” (father’s sister) in the Tongan family.
  • 57% believed that men should lead in the village while 57% believed that both males and females could lead in the workplace.
  • 53% considered that both men and women could lead in parliament, but both male and female respondents were more likely to consider men as the ‘best’ leader in this area.
  • 52% stated that they would vote for a male candidate over a female candidate with exactly the same qualifications.
  • 92% considered men were more likely to have the right skills and experience for parliament.
Research Type(s)
Report – Peer reviewed
Submitted by Sonia Palmieri
June 30, 2021
Published in

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