Mauritius: GL welcomes first woman vice president

Date: November 16, 2010
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Port Louis: 16 November – Gender Links welcomes the appointment for the first time of a woman, Monique Oh San Bellepeau, as vice president in the Republic of Mauritius. After nearly four decades of independence and two decades of Republic, her nomination is a strong sign that gender equality is high on the agenda of the present government. It is also a victory for gender activists and Mauritian women at large, as well as for women in the region.

Oh San Bellepeau has a long history of social activism and a good grasp of the media, having worked at the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation in the 1960s. She was also a junior minister at the Ministry of Rural and Urban Development from 1995 to 2000. In 2009 she was given the distinction of Grand Officer of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (G.O.S.K) for services in social and political fields.

The nomination of Oh San Bellepeau is in line with Section 16 of the Constitution of Mauritius, which guarantees gender equality, as well as Articles 12-13 of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender Development, which calls for equal representation of women and men in political decision making by 2015.

However, Mauritius has yet to sign or ratify the SADC Protocol because its leaders have argued that the country’s constitution disallows affirmative action.

Recent elections in Mauritius in May 2010 saw a small increase in women’s representation, up 17.1% to 18.8%. The country uses a constitutional or first-past-the-post electoral system which is often seen as a hindrance to women candidates, especially in countries that do not use quotas to ensure women’s representation. Mauritius has 12% women in cabinet and just 6.4% women in local government: one of the lowest in the region.

Rwanda, which now leads globally as far as national women’s representation, has 56% representation. South Africa is ranked second in Africa with 43% women in parliament. Unfortunately two countries – Botswana and Namibia – went backwards in recent elections, with Botswana now the SADC country with the lowest proportion of women in government.

Speaking to the media after her nomination, Oh San Bellepeau said: “The Prime Minister believes in the capacity of women and wants women to go forward.” Since the May elections Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam has nominated several women to top posts, signalling a commitment to fall in line with the regional move toward 50/50 representation by 2015. For the first time Mauritius has a woman minister of health and the name of the Ministry of Women’s Rights has been changed to The Ministry of Gender Equality. Also, the government has created a Ministry of Social Integration and ensured 30% parliamentary private secretaries are women. Mauritius is due to hold its local government elections in December.

For more information contact:
Loga Virahsawmy
Director Mauritius and Francophone office
Phone 00 230 466 9873


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