Empowering Women to Empower More PeopleJun 20, 2017
A hundred women from Fiji’s Eastern Division were able to access social, economic and legal services and increase their awareness on the rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji during a workshop recently organized in Suva.
The workshop was coordinated by the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project implemented by the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, and the Legal Aid Commission with support from the Government of Japan and UNDP.
The workshop aimed to empower women by providing opportunities to access information and services for the women who came from maritime communities of Lau, Kadavu, Lomaiviti and Rotuma who have particular challenge to do so due to their geographical locations.
They had the opportunity to strengthen their knowledge on issues they are concerned about such as gender equality and gender based violence. The women were also provided with individual services by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Legal Aid Commission, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and Fiji Police Force to become empowered to address their issues of concern.
The Rotuma Women’s Association President, Marieta Tiuhe’a said, “The social welfare services, legal aid services, information on the issue on child abuse and other information that was shared during the REACH programme was an eye-opener for us. It was very informative.”
“We, 14 of us, are privileged to be part of the programme today. We don’t have many chances to have this kind of awareness raising so we will share what we learned today with our people back home,” she added.
Head of the Nabukelevu District of the Kadavu Province, Livia Mariwa, found the REACH service delivery a good opportunity to obtain necessary information to assist elderly women in her women’s club.
“In the rural area, we have limited opportunity to access information and services. I found the REACH programme is the chance for us to do so. It will assist for the needs of our elders who are the foundation of our women’s club.”
“I am getting information on how to obtain assistance so they can benefit from those services such as bus/boat fare assistance and social pension scheme,” she added.
Providing the opportunity for women to have increased knowledge and access to information and services then enables women to support others who need assistance. Empowering women will result in empowering more people through them and further support gender equality which is a crucial condition for sustainable development.
The participants made their travel from their respective island communities to Suva to attend the Fiji National Women’s EXPO 2017 organized by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation from 14 to 16 June 2017.
The women were warmly welcomed to the workshop by Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa.
“You, the women of the Eastern Division, from the provinces of Lau, Kadavu, Lomaiviti and Rotuma have travelled days ahead of the National Women’s Expo from so far away,” said Hon. Vuniwaqa.
“Rural women are leaders, entrepreneurs and service providers, and their contributions are vital to the well-being of families, communities and economies, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“We saw this time as an opportune one to bring to you essential services under the coordination of the REACH Project.”
The Minister also raised the issue on gender based violence as one of the most severe obstacle in the empowerment of women and identified the efforts made by the Government and communities to eradicate the violence, including the recently launched national domestic violence helpline.
“Gender based Violence is one of the most severe, detrimental, and inhumane obstacle in the empowerment of women. One thing we have understood well, is that gender based violence is a result of gender inequality.
She added, “I wish to remind you that it is your right to be safe, protected and to have access to justice through legal services. I hope you have taken good note of the services that are available for you and all Fijian women and that you will help anyone in need with relevant information regarding these services.”
UNDP Programme Manager for Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Human Rights, Christine Fowler, said, “As of 12 June 2017, 4775 people have benefitted from the REACH Project awareness raising and service delivery of which 2326 are women. Also, 3428 services have been accessed by people including 2158 services provided to women by the REACH team comprised of the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Legal Aid Commission and Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission”.
The Government has endorsed the global Sustainable Development Goals which aim to ensure that no one will be left behind and endeavor to reach the furthest behind first. Goal 16 is a commitment to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build eﬀective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. For Goal 5, there is commitment to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. The REACH Project supports the achievement of these goals.
Tomoko Kashiwazaki, REACH Project Advocacy and Outreach Officer, email: firstname.lastname@example.org