Josefa Gavidi – Suva (Male Champions)
Is gender balance important in local government?
Definitely, there has to be a fair representation of both genders because all policies and laws affect everyone and communities are made up of both genders, therefore it is absolutely essential to have both perspectives.
Why should men and women both contribute to policy making?
For the simple reason that half the populations of the country are women and they have a lot of potential and can add great value to discussions and debate. They have a different perspective on issues and getting more ideas will help make sound and sustainable policies for the city.
Is it a challenge to have women in Local governments?
Yes, it is a challenge to have women in Local Government because men have a mindset and have not been able to change with time. They are still holding on to their culture which defines the role of women as homemakers and men as leaders. Although patriarchal structures are slowly changing, it is going to take a long time.
An example of men’s negative attitude toward women in leadership was when a women’s name was suggested to chair the Finance portfolio – the men who were in majority decided that a women could not handle the responsibility although she had more experience and knowledge in the area.
What are the benefits of having women in Local government?
I believe that women are by nature better organized. Women tend to take into account finer details which men overlook and this is due to their nurturing and motherly instinct. They are more sensitive for example; the city planner at Suva city council is sensitive to Heritage property so whenever there is a development issue, she helps keep things in perspective. Women also have greater decorum and respect for the value of good governance. They also lead by example.
What initiatives could help get more women elected to Local Government?
Government should now seriously consider making laws that compel political parties to have a gender balance in their selection of candidates for elections. Laws will ensure women’s equal participation and also help eradicate social and cultural barriers that deter women from political participation.,
Are women’s issues also men’s issue?
All issues are human issues and if women are to be respected as human beings as they deserve equal respect and opportunities.
Do you think council services adequately address the needs of Women and girls?
No, more effort has to be made to provide better services to women and girls. Issues of safety and security and civic amenities like clean toilet facilities is greatly lacking in our city.
Has the attitude toward women in Local Government changed?
There have been some inroads made but a lot more needs to be done. The tireless work of some NGO’s namely the Fiji Women’s rights Movement, The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Unifem has raised considerable awareness on issues of women’s rights, violence against women, the importance of women’s participation at all levels of decision making etc. but this has to continue and gain greater momentum. Men will have to be gender sensitized through special programmes and then men themselves advocate including women at decision making levels.