Savusavu, Fiji – Marguerite Gain returned to her mother’s village after surviving domestic violence and for the past ten years she has been earning her livelihood sewing uniforms for students, dresses and shirts for her fellow village women and men using an old manual sewing machine.
The emotional scars that Marguerite still bears as a survivor of domestic violence did not stop her rising as a business woman. She enrolled in a university and studied with her son who was a university student at the time. With the certificate she earned from the university, Marguerite took another step forward and applied for a business license when the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) visited her village as part of the team of government officers. The business license will bring her more opportunities to grow her business through accessing training and loans.
The awareness of gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence was unequivocally promoted by the team of officers from the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Legal Aid Commission, and the Registrar of BDM. The awareness raising was conducted as part of the initiative to deliver their services to the doorstep of communities coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji. The team visited seven villages in seven districts in two provinces of the Northern Division during the global campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
During the community outreach by the team with the slogan, ‘gender equality starts from the communities,’ the officers from the Department of Women discussed with the villagers that when violence against women and children does occur in the communities, it should not be ignored. They encouraged both women and men to talk about the issue in the communities.
While the world has achieved progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment under the Millennium Development Goals (including equal access to primary education between girls and boys), women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world and Fiji is not an exception.
Participating in the awareness raising and accessing the services in her village, Marguerite said “The discussion and advice given by the officers were so encouraging. I’ve learned that these different government agencies provide different services to us, such as social welfare schemes, legal aid, BDM registrations. I am excited to receive my business license that I applied for today.”
She was encouraged by the officers to participate in the training of trainers and become a business skills trainer supported by the Department.
Iva Batiki, who has been taking a leadership role for Savudrodro village for more than 30 years, was among the participants in the awareness session conducted in her community. She was a graduate of the leadership training provided by the Department of Women.
Iva encouraged other women in Fiji to take leadership and gave her message, “Never be quiet and shy to talk about sensitive issues like gender-based violence. Encourage everyone to participate and talk to everyone equally. The key is to show your love to everyone.”
The Fiji Government has endorsed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which calls for action by all countries to improve the lives of people and set its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Among the 17 Goals, Goal 5 focuses on achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls as it defines gender equality as not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for peaceful, prosperous and sustainable societies. 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.
Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, in his statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 Days of Activism, said, “With gender equality and violence against women now better integrated into the Sustainable Development Goals than in any prior development framework, we have an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen efforts to address and reduce gender-based violence.”
Through strengthening people’s awareness of the social, economic and legal rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji and access to the associated government services, the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji promotes gender equality and supports the achievement of these Goals.
The mobile awareness raising and service delivery was conducted by the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project. The REACH Project is implemented by UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, and the Legal Aid Commission and supported by the Government of Japan and UNDP.