IT is the end of the school holidays and a lot of nice movies are being screened at our cinemas. There is a movie about a cartoon character, Batman as well as another one which is focused on a teddy bear.
It is amazing how we have a lot of nice movies for children that even we as adults are hooked on possibly because of the sound track or maybe the concept being discussed.
One such movie, which I like is the Lion King. This particular cartoon is about a lion cub Simba who with his friends, a boar and a little ferret, focus on friendship between three different animals despite the apparent obstacles and differences.
The friends go through the circle of life and like everything in this world there is a season for childhood, a season of friendship and play, and a season of responsibility when Simba, the little cub lion has to stand up and be a king for all the animals.
The film reveals the apparent process that we all have in life — there is a process or cycle that we follow.
We start as a baby or toddler then become children before we become teenagers and finally as adults we have children and a new cycle of life starts. Life is modelled on the circle of life — there is a process or a cycle which we progressively go through.
In Fiji, we are going through a phase in the electoral cycle and similar to life, there are various stages.
There are eight stages in the electoral cycle.
The first is the legal framework formulation, second is planning and implementation, third is the information training and education, fourth is the voter registration, fifth is the party registration and nominations for electoral campaign, sixth is the voting operations and elections, seventh is the verification of results and the final stage of the cycle is the post-election work of the electoral analysis where we note the strengths as well as the challenges in the election process.
We are currently in the first phase as well as the fourth phase of the electoral cycle and already we can see challenges faced by women in rural areas. Though the last phase is about analysis, we are pleased, as a women's organisation that the government is allowing the registration process to be extended. This is because of the fact that some women in rural areas are facing difficulties in getting the verification documents such as passports, FNPF cards and even birth certificates.
Women have been limited in their attempt to register as they have no documents and because they have no resources or access to resources, they are limited in their attempt to register.
The cost of getting the verification documents which include transport and fuel costs are, for some, equivalent to the cost of a fortnights meals and this has stopped them from coming to urban centres to get documents such as the birth certificate done.
This has limited their attempt to register which is a fundamental right.
Women are hopeful that officials from institutes such as the Fiji National Provident Fund and the registration office could visit rural areas in the next month to help them gain access to verification documents and complete their registration.
Women and youths are all eager to be part of the democratic process but the hindrance of access to official documents is a barrier in their participation and this is only a minute portion of the hindrances that women face when wanting to be part of the democratic process.
Another such hindrance to the participation in the electoral process is in the understanding of the electoral cycle.
Phase one of the electoral cycle which is the legal framework formulation has not been completed yet we are already on phase four.
Women are busy trying to put in their submissions at the same time as finding the means to access the electoral registration teams.
Though the two phases are simultaneously being carried out, as citizens of Fiji, it is our role to be aware of what is involved in a democratic process and we must ensure that we are constantly querying what is being done as this is a process that will determine the governance of our country.
Whether we are to make submissions, be registered to vote, stand for elections, campaign for candidates, vote and even win a seat as a candidate, the onus is on us to ensure that our voice is heard.
We must be part of the electoral cycle. We must be part of trainings conducted to help us, whether it be civic education by a non-government organisation, BRIDGE by UN Women or a Women in Politics training facilitated by a donor agency, the onus is for all women to attend, apply the information learnt and be part of the democratic process.
We must all be vigilant and participate in the circle of democracy which is visualised in the electoral cycle.
After all Fiji is our country, it is our democracy and it is our electoral cycle so we must all contribute!
* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com