Unlike other Pacific Islands, the kingdom of Tonga is a constitutional monarchy. Following a period of membership in the Polynesian kingdom, Tonga became a British protectorate in 1900 and joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970. In the 21st century, three-fourths of this archipelago of islands still lives in rural areas, and agriculture generates a fourth of the gross national product.

With a per capita income of only $4,600, nearly a fourth of the population lives in poverty. Many women have to work more than one job to support their families. In this highly traditional society, women have low status. Suffrage is universal for anyone 21 and over, but only a few women have managed to defy tradition and achieve positions of leadership.

Most women who have ...

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