Gloria Julia King has single-handedly ended almost a quarter-century of male rule within the halls of Vanuatu’s parliament, with the former athlete becoming the only woman elected in the nation’s 52-member legislature, according to the Vanuatu Electoral Office (VEO).
VEO announced King had officially obtained the title Monday, 11 days after a snap election was held on Oct. 13.
"I’m excited for Vanuatu women, of course,” said King, who secured 1,618 votes in the rural Efate Constituency, according to the Guardian. “I’m happy for women, in general, to know they have a voice that can be represented up there. That’s the part I can be excited about.”
Half a dozen other women — Vanessa Molisa with the Laverwo Movement, Maryline Abel with the Vanuatu Party and Independents Nadia Kanegai, Celine Bareus, Doresday Kenneth and Evelyne Utisets — were declared official candidates, but failed to secure a seat.
Molisa, Abel, Kanegai, Bareus, Kenneth and Utisets secured a combined 1,666 votes.
King is the sixth woman ever elected to Vanuatu parliament.
The exact makeup of the government is still being decided, but it’s likely King will form part of a Coalition.
King’s appointment marks the first time every nation in the Pacific has at least one elected woman parliamentarian.
Gloria King will be Vanuatu's fourth women elected into Parliament since 1980. Unofficial results showed that after more than 10 years, a woman is elected into Parliament. Congratulations pic.twitter.com/dFYJY0wBAK— Vanuatu Politics & Home News (@VanuatuN) October 18, 2022
Gender inequality remains one of the largest issues to Vanuatu's peace and security.
While the nation has adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, no sexual harassment legislation has been introduced. A small-scale 2022 study from Vanuatian advocacy organisation Sista found 66% of women in the country had experienced sexual harassment in the workforce.
"I thought it was normal,” one surveyed woman told Sista.
"I am young and new in this workplace, and I don't know how or where to report,” said another.
World Vision International, meanwhile, revealed 60% of all women in Vanuatu have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence, while 1 in 3 girls under the age of 15 have “experienced sexual abuse with the majority of the perpetrators being an intimate partner or family member.”
The nation's reliance on community-based justice — traditional courts led by local chiefs, as opposed to a formal justice system — and overall lack of support services for domestic violence survivors are thought to be the two most critical contributors to Vanuatu's gender equality and sexism challenges.
King vowed in her pre-election campaign to create more business opportunities for women.