By Talebula Kate in Suva
While International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, Fiji must not lose sight of the struggles ahead, says Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre coordinator Shamima Ali.
She stressed this in a statement as Fiji marked International Women’s Day today, March 8, saying that while the country’s progress towards gender equality was still lagging, public services needed to be scaled up to meet women’s rights and increase women’s participation.
Ali said Fiji must continue the collective action to demand for accountability for crimes against women and girls in the country.
“Inequality, climate emergency, covid-19 and the rise of exclusionary politics have further exacerbated our vulnerability as a nation to address the serious violations of women’s human rights,” Ali said.
She said violence against women and girls continued to increase and anecdotal evidence showed this was because of the patriarchal society that Fiji lived in.
“We have a very patriarchal society that’s underpinned by religious and cultural attitudes towards women and their place in our communities,” she said.
“This is further exacerbated by lack of political will on part of government to commit to the issue of eliminating violence against women and girls. We have poor law enforcement, particularly around the area of gender-based violence.”
Laws not well implemented
She said that while Fiji had good legislation and protection orders in place, it was not doing well at implementation level.
“Gender neutral laws and programmes that are not rights based often act as a backlash for women,” Ali said.
#Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre not only does great work, it’s also a terrific example of @MFATgovtNZ – @dfat donor harmonisation. PM @jacindaardern was joined in opening the Nadi branch of FWCC by @AusHCFJ & Minister @MereseiniRakui1. Vinaka Shamima Ali & team for your great work! pic.twitter.com/OzCvRGcMcH
— Jonathan Curr (@JCurrNZ) February 27, 2020
“Programmes that are not rights based do not address the root cause of violence against women which is gender inequality.”
Ali said Fiji needed to continue to advocate for more women leaders in government, Parliament, on statutory boards and in leadership positions.
“We have the general elections next year and more women need to contest the polls. We need to challenge the status quo and demand for inclusion, create an enabling environment, address inequalities, educate our women and girls and amplify their voices,” she said.
“We have many women leaders in the world, in the Pacific and in Fiji. From my experience, effective women leaders are feminists who do not just accept the status quo.
“Feminist leadership challenges patriarchy, is fearless, is compassionate and leads with humanity, kindness and firmness.”
Fiji Times articles are republished with permission.