Pacific Regional Representative of the Commonwealth Youth Council,  Elizabeth Kitè gave the keynote speech at the Opening Ceremony of the first Girls Takeover Parliament Day in the Kingdom of Tonga on 2nd November 2018. Girls Takeover Parliament is a partnership between the Commonwealth Youth Council and Jasiri Australia in their effort to combat the #Pacific region’s low female representation in Parliament.

Lord Speaker of Parliament, Lord Fakafanua,

Your Excellency, Ms Babington, New Zealand High Commissioner,

Your Excellency, Mr Andrew Ford, Australian High Commissioner,

Papiloa Foliaki,

Alisi Taumoepeau,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, on Girls Takeover Parliament Day, we wish to commemorate and reiterate the message from this year’s International Youth Day, Safe Spaces for Youth.

The Commonwealth’s 53 member countries have a combined population of more than 2 billion, of which more than 60% are under the age of 30 years. The Commonwealth sees young people aged 15-29 as assets to a country’s development, who should be empowered to realise their potential because our young people have a proven capability to lead positive change, and are a vital and valuable investment for now and the future. The Commonwealth support the effective participation of young women and men in development processes and promote their engagement at all levels of decision-making, including with Heads of Government.

Youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves. While there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth. Safe spaces such as civic spaces enable youth to engage in governance issues; which we will get to see from the participants today, who are young Tongan leaders in their own right.

Through Girls Takeover Parliament today, and Tonga Youth Parliament that will be held in the coming weeks, we are encouraging the youth of Tonga, that FALE ALEA ‘O TONGA is a safe space and a space where their voices matter too.

A big congratulations to all 26 participants of today’s Girls Takeover, today is your day.

Malo ‘aupito

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