Archive for February, 2011« Older Entries
Monday, February 28th, 2011
It was with deepest sympathy to have heard the loss of Mrs Sharda Segran, a retired nursing sister and President of the Nausori Women’s Association, who passed away last week after a long battle with cancer.
In October 2010, the SWPMG Program organised a networking event at the Nausori Rural Women’s Association. It was there that we met Sharda who gave us an insight into the background and activities of Association and its work within the community. Women from local councils were also hosted to a lunch prepared by members of the Association.
Sharda, after her retirement from nursing, devoted her life to serving the weak, needy and vulnerable women in rural communities.
‘Women at her age usually take a break from the usual busy chores of life but for Sharda everyday is spent either visiting someone or preparing for an upcoming event for women’s empowerment’ read a 2009 Fiji Times article, which interviewed Mrs Segran and the efforts she had made for rural communities in Nausori.
The following story is extracted from the same interview, to give an idea of the selfless and good natured woman Mrs Segran was and her love of giving back to the community:
Living for Others
By Dorine Narayan
The retired nurse received the calling to extend a helping hand while working as a community health nurse in areas around Nausori during the 1970s.
“I was never placed in the hospital but always went out for field work. This was the time when I visited the rural communities, settlements, the villages and saw the hardship women faced. I was able to see the day-to-day difficulties, suffering and pain these women go through and I made up my mind to do something for them when I retire,” she says.
Giving a voice to the fearful, weak, and vulnerable women became the mission for this Pride of Fiji nominee.
“These women at that time were living only to serve others,” she adds.
“They were busy either looking after their children, husbands or their households. They basically had no time of their own and many of them lived in fear of their authoritative husbands. They were not given any money and were not allowed to go anywhere. They sometimes made up excuses to come to hospital so they could have a view of the town and shop around.”
She had the urge to break all these barriers and give a new turn to these women.
“These women did not have any knowledge at that time about International Women’s Day and about their rights. They had the talent, the skill and creativity but no guidance. All they needed was a little push to go out and prove themselves.”
Her first major achievement was the establishment of Kuku Mothers Club in 1990 with eight members.
Sharda’s dedication and bravery last year saw the birth of the Nausori Rural Women’s Association that now has 40 members.
NRWA aims to empower and advance women through education, information, communication and to enable them to make informed decisions.
Source: Fiji Times, ‘Living for Others’ by Dorine Narayan, June 10th, 2009.
Monday, February 28th, 2011
The ‘Strengthening Women’s Participation in Municipal Governance’ (SWPMG) Program in partnership with the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) held a rights training workshop at the Southern Cross Hotel in Suva last week from the 25th to the 26th of February 2011.
The two day training program was the first of three planned professional development workshops based on the topics of Leadership, Human Rights, Employments Rights and Sexual Harassment. The next workshop will be held in Lautoka whilst the third will be held back in Suva.
Partcipants of this workshop were mainly from the Central Division which included Suva, Lami, Nausori and Nasinu. Also in attendance were women from Sigatoka, Nadi and Labasa Town Councils.
The women were taken through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHDR), CEDAW as well as other important Conventions pertaining to rights, some of which were relatively new concepts to the participants. Discussions and exercises based on case studies were also carried out which including identifying where a human right had been violated. Activities generated interesting and thought provking discussions and questions for the participants which was thorougly enjoyed by all.
The two day workshop was very successful with participants sharing their views and experiences of working within council as well as gaining new and valuable incites with regards to leadership skills, human and women’s rights, employment rights and procedures, sexual harassment policies as well as networking and making new friends.
Thursday, February 17th, 2011
Disability access, environment management, women and children’s health issues, and improving health service delivery to senior citizens topped the list of human security and development priorities raised by twenty three local women leaders in Nadi during a new interactive policy dialogue with the Nadi Town Council Special Administrator Aisea Tuidraki and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Terence O’Neill this week.
It was facilitated by FemLINKPACIFIC as part of its Women, Peace and Human Security programme.
The interactive dialogue covered a range of priority issues documented in the Nadi Women, Peace and Human Security Local Action Plan developed in May 2010, and monthly Women, Peace and Human Security consultations convened by FemLINKPACIFIC.
Representatives of the Nadi Arya Samaj Women’s Club, Nadi Muslim Women’s League, Nadi Zone Soqosoqo Vakamarama I Taukei, Fiji Disabled People’s Association, Nadi Women’s Council, Nadi Tikina Soqosoqo Vakamarama I Taukei, Sanatan Nari Sabha Nadi and Shub Shanti Women’s Club heard about the council’s commitment to comply with international norms and conventions to improve access for persons with disability, the plan for the construction of affordable accommodation for market vendors, as well as the broader development master plan for Nadi in response to the concerns they were able to raise.
Satya Kumar, the secretary of the Shub Shanti Women’s Group, recommended more women and children friendly services: “Mine is a health issue. Whether we (women) come from Nadi town or outside Nadi, we need to have access to clean and well maintained toilets. Secondly, most of us are mothers, therefore we need a place to breastfeed and nurse babies when we come to town and are looking forward to hearing about what are some of the council’s plans in addressing these issues,” said Kumar
Jyoti Naidu, who is visually impaired, called for more disability friendly planning: “The footpaths, roads and shop steps in Nadi town do not have wheelchair ramps, which makes it a very hostile environment for disabled people. We also need proper crossing lights with sound so that the visually impaired people can be safe on the streets and have a freedom of movement,” she said while
Sereima Lutumailagi from the Namotomoto Village in Nadi, raised concerns about air pollution: “My issue is the environment. I am from Namotomoto village which falls within the Nadi town boundary and we often get traffic jams on the roads through my village. The fumes from the vehicles are not healthy for the people or the environment. Secondly, I would also like clarification on who manages the road humps and zebra crossing’s in my village which is not maintained properly,” she said. She also raised the issue of improved facilities for market vendors, especially women.
According to FemLINKPACIFIC’s Executive Director, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, the interactive dialogue was a valuable opportunity to link their “1325 network members” to the key policy and operational decision makers in Nadi Town: “We look forward to replicating this model throughout our rural network, as it is vital that women are provided the time and the space to be heard, and to actively engage in discussions. Today, the issues raised from disability access, the pollution caused by traffic, the call for a crèche facility in town, as well as the situation of market vendors, have been positively received, and demonstrate that for sustainable development, you need to invest in women’s participation especially at the local level. This demonstrates just how women can be supported, and involved.”
The town council’s participation in the interactive dialogue, according to Mr Tuidraki demonstrates their commitment to an open door policy, particularly to ensure women’s views and issues are taken into account by the local government authorities: “We have a very important understanding of the role that women play in our society, here in Nadi Town Council we consider it very important to ensure that women are not victimised or feeling insecure”, he said, adding “It is important to note that when we are doing this (Nadi development) master plan we are taking very seriously the views and consideration of women and how the women feel when they come to town and that has been taken care of with our city planner and when we are doing this planning we are thinking of women’s views.”
Responding to the call for improvements to the town’s garbage disposal systems, the Nadi Town Council CEO encouraged the women to take the lead in advocating for recycling, re-use and reduction efforts or the 3R project, to enhance waste management efforts while the council plans to establish Nadi’s first land-fill. Currently all of Nadi’s garbage is carted to Lautoka.
One of the major issues highlighted in the 2010 Nadi Action Plan was the call for urgent actions to be taken to stop the pollution of the Nadi River which affects village settlements including Namotomoto, Nakavu, Navoci, Narewa, Navakai, Sikituru, Yavusania, and Saunaka and the council representatives today reiterated their commitment to ensure the improved management of Nadi’s river systems, including preventing the pollution of the waterways, which is a major source of food for the villages along the Nadi river.
The interactive dialogue will feature as a radio feature during this weekend’s suitcase community radio broadcast at McDonalds Nadi this weekend.
Thursday, February 17th, 2011
Article by Monika Singh of the Fiji Times (17/02/2011)
THE Ministry for Women has encouraged women who want to contest in the next elections to work hard now to convince the voters to vote for them in 2014.
Minister of Women Doctor Jiko Luveni made the statement at the opening of a two-day consultation on the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at Novotel in Lami on Tuesday.
Dr Luveni said Fiji presented its report to the CEDAW Committee in July last year and the committee had requested Fiji to provide written information on the steps taken to implement recommendation which dealt with steps taken to adopt a new Constitution through a collaborative process involving the full participation of women.
She said Fiji’s Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development (RDSSED) 2009 to 2014 provided the way forward reflecting Government’s commitment to gender equality, occupational discrimination and gender segregation.
Dr Luveni said the Roadmap articulates Government’s commitment in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women in the rural communities.
She said the Ministry for Women was ready to provide help to women who intended to stand in the 2014 elections in Fiji.
Dr Luveni said one of the 12 key performance indicators in the RDSSED, 2009-2014 for achieving the goal of gender equality and empowerment of women through full participation in business and decision making process is to ensure that the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament and municipal elections should not be less than 20 per cent.
“In the 2006 elections, only 11 per cent of members of parliament were women,” she said.
According to Dr Luveni Pillar 3 of the People’s Charter for Change stated that one of the key measures and actions necessary for the way forward in ensuring effective, enlightened and accountable leadership was to enhance, support and secure the participation of women leaders at all levels of decision making.
Dr Luveni said the CEDAW committee welcomed Fiji’s report on the new laws and decrees that were in line with the provision of the convention that have been promulgated.
“Secondly, it also welcomed the Women’s Plan of Action (2010-2019) addressing the State’s commitment to the advancement of women and thirdly, the construction of women centers in Provinces and semi-urban settlements that will enhance capacity building initiatives,” she said.
Article Source: Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=166288
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Article written by Kery-Anne Walsh of the Sydney Morning Herald
IN A clinic attached to Port Moresby General Hospital, a dedicated band of women led by Australian Colleen Westaway tends to the needs of pregnant and child-rearing Papua New Guinea women.
It is a task that for 36 years has consumed the organisation known as Susu Mamas (mother’s milk), started by a group of expatriate Australian women who wanted to help the local women with antenatal and postnatal care. Susu Mamas has been at the forefront of care for mothers in a country where women continue to struggle for social equality and a fair share of the public health dollar, and continue to die in childbirth at an alarming rate.
With help over the years from funding bodies such as AusAID, the Australian government’s overseas aid arm, Susu Mamas has flourished and also has clinics in the provinces of Mt Hagen and Lae. Its ambitious vision for the next decade is to set up shop in another 19 provinces.
Five paid nurses and Westaway, a trained nurse who is the unpaid driving force of the organisation, minister to between 100 and 150 women a day in the Port Moresby clinic alone. In the 18 years that Westaway has run the capital city clinic, it has seen 1.5 million women.
In a country where patriarchy dominates and polygamy is still widely practised, wives and mothers trail decades behind their Western sisters. “Nothing has changed on that front in the 18 years I’ve been here,” Westaway says.
For every thousand babies born, 70 die before their fifth birthday. Five women die in childbirth daily but the figures vary. The official figure from the United Nations is 253 per 100,000 live births but it is as high as 733 in some areas. Consider Australia’s maternal mortality rate: 8.4 per 100,000 live births, meaning PNG’s rate is about 30 times that.
Australia, less than 40 minutes away by plane, pours one-third of its overseas aid budget into improving the lives of people in a country it once managed.
The persistently high maternal mortality rate arises from a complex web of factors: male ignorance and dominance; lack of health infrastructure in remote villages and provinces; high rates of HIV and AIDS and domestic violence; and a shortage of trained midwives.
This uphill battle to save the mothers and babies is mainly left to national organisations, dedicated voluntary bodies and philanthropists, international aid bodies such as AusAID, and churches.
Signatories to the UN Millennium Development Goals last year adopted a global action plan, which aims to prevent the deaths worldwide of more than 15 million children under five by 2015, and prevent the deaths of 740,000 women from pregnancy and birth complications.
The World Health Organisation was one of several global bodies anointed by the 41 governments, non-profits and philanthropic bodies – which committed nearly $40 billion in resources – to mobilise the international community.
The PNG target is to reduce the mortality rate of under-fives to 32 per 1000 – halving the current level. As the infant mortality rate is linked to the survival of the mother at childbirth and her health in the first few years, improving the lives and health of mothers is vital.
The WHO is familiar with the entrenched problem. With the United Nations Children’s Fund, it framed the nation’s Child Health Policy and Plan 2009-2020.
This directive put myriad programs in place to stem the rise of maternal and infant deaths, including initiatives to attack deficiencies in the health system and streamline services; education programs for mothers; early health intervention; immunisation of babies and children; and nurse and healthcare training.
Dr Agatha Mwingi Lloyd, from the country’s WHO office, says the primary focus is through the Integrated Management of Childbirth and Pregnancy initiative.
AusAID has joined WHO in the quest to reduce the mortality rate, pumping millions of dollars into women’s and children’s health programs, training programs for healthcare professionals, immunisation initiatives and other assistance.
Australia estimates its official aid for 2010-11 for PNG at $457.2 million, which is directed at infrastructure, health, education and community-building projects. AusAID programs absorb $415 million of that, and another $42.2 million goes to regional and global programs and other government agencies.
Along with a lack of infrastructure and basic health services, one of the greatest impediments to saving maternal lives in PNG, particularly in rural communities, is the dearth of trained midwives.
“There is a serious, really serious lack of midwives,” Westaway says. “There’ve been a lot of words from the [PNG] government, a lot of moral support to take action, but … ” she trails off.
In a semi-rural area near Port Moresby, set in unexpectedly manicured lawns with neat rows of buildings, the Pacific Adventist University is doing its bit to fix the midwife crisis. Lecturer and midwife Aketa Burete Kirabis weeps as she describes working in a health centre in the provinces.
“Someone came in and told us that a woman had delivered on the side of the road,” she says. “We went up there and the road was so rough, and the mother had to walk many miles to get help. She just gave birth on the side of the road.
“I’ve seen them come in with the cord hanging, and a blue baby.”
Seed funding from AusAid’s Support Services Improvement Program enabled 13 midwives to graduate last month. They were the first students to finish the national bachelor of midwifery, a one-year course open to registered nurses.
Apart from two students from the Solomon Islands, the rest were from PNG. The health sciences dean, Esther Pelly, hopes the graduates will stay in their home country but says the government doesn’t fund positions for midwives in rural areas, even though 80 per cent of the population lives outside Port Moresby.
“The positions are not being created,” she says.
“It is in the national health plan that at least every health centre must have at least one midwife. The Department of Health wants us to take 40 to 50 students a year [in nursing and midwifery courses] but they are not creating the positions for them and they end up in private practice or leaving PNG.”
Pelly believes the lack of infrastructure in rural communities and decent pay are stumbling blocks to qualified health professionals taking up positions.
“If there are no incentives and no infrastructure, then we can’t expect people to go there,” she says.
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