News from the Region
Fifth Fiji Women's Forum Convened
The fifth Fiji Women’s Forum (FWF) was held from the 8-10 April in Suva and was attended by over 60 women from diverse backgrounds across Fiji. The consultation focused on ‘Women’s Participation in National Democratic Processes’ with the aim of encouraging women to participate in nation building and to engage in the development and political processes of the country. It was jointly organized by the National Council of Women Fiji, the Soqosoqo Vakamarama I Taukei, the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement and FemLINKPACIFIC.
While previous Forums have normally had a general focus on national government and getting women into parliament, this year the FWF had local governance as one of its focus areas and gave women the opportunity to discuss the possible avenues for engagement and inclusion of women in decision making processes at this level. CLGF Pacific was invited to facilitate this session and gave a presentation on the various structures of local government present in Fiji and the Pacific region in both urban contexts and more traditional models. The presentation also included statistics of Pacific women presently in either elected or senior managerial roles in local government and demonstrated that this representation was still quite low.
In a press release issued by FemLINKPACIFIC, Ms Fay Volatabu of the National Council of Women Fiji stated that the focus on local governance has been a priority issue and it is time to develop collective strategies:
“That’s why we really want the local government elections to go ahead. And of course just like the national election we want 50% or more representation of women (but) whether the local government elections happens this year or next or whenever it happens, we are already preparing our women. So we’ve started doing our training with women leaders. Women leaders in the Vanua or women who are wanting to go into council elections.”
While the membership of the Soqosoqo Vakamarama I Taukei primarily focuses on traditional governance structures the other structures the National Parliament, municipality and rural local authorities as well as iTaukei institutions are all relevant particularly to increase women’s participation in all existing structures:
“So we’ll definitely be discussing those matters and we’ll probably have to be looking back and uh assessing how we’ve performed in those four parallel agencies, and how we might advance from our past positions in terms of getting more women to participate.”
At the conclusion of the Forum a final outcomes document was presented together with the launching of its ‘Women in Politics Campaign Handbook’ which was developed as a useful resource for women candidates contesting in future elections both in Fiji and around the region.
Photo Source: Fiji Women's Rights Movement (c) 2015