HAVE you been on Facebook lately or as some people prefer to refer to it as FB? When you are on FB, one of the things you need to update yourself on are the acronyms — LOL or LMAO or WTH are some of the acronyms which you need an acronym dictionary for.
You have no choice but to have a crash course in what the acronyms mean if you want to be in the loop and know what everyone else is referring to.
Otherwise you might be saying the same acronym but mean two different things. Take for example, LOL.
I thought it meant 'Laugh Out Loud' whereas some others think that it means 'Lots of Love'. So how do you know which is which and when is it appropriate to use it.
If you think that is bad then enter Miss Civic Servant into the NGO world and even the NGO word is something that she does not know — duh,it is non-government organisation — say the old hands but as time goes on, you have to research and know what each acronym stands for.
That FWF means Fiji Women's Forum and not Fiji Women's Federation or FMF means Fiji Military Forces and not Flour Mills of Fiji.
In the NGO world, one of the words that you absolutely hate is GONGO and you have to guess what that means but since we are discussing acronyms, do you know the latest to be flitted around emails now — 'are you going to BRIDGE or have you done BRIDGE'?
For one unaware as to what the acronym stands for, it would sound grammatically incorrect especially if you are talking about crossing a bridge or building a bridge.
This new acronym stands for Building Resources In Democracy, Governance and Elections.
It is a modular professional development program with particular emphasis on election.
BRIDGE is a unique initiative as it brings together five leading organisations in the democracy and governance field jointly committed to developing, implementing and maintaining the most comprehensive curriculum and workshop available which is designed to be used as a tool within a broader capacity framework.
The organisations are namely the United Nations Development Program, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an international collaboration of networks, the United Nations and the Australian Electoral Commission.
The office had been in Australia in recent years but it has trained numerous trainers around the world and the region.
In Fiji, there are a handful of trainers that have been accredited as BRIDGE facilitators and the knowledge they have now also includes a civic education component which was recently added when the feedback from most developing nations were for a more comprehensive civic education curriculum.
Anyone trained as a BRIDGE facilitator is equipped with the tools to conduct internationally recognised training and in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have been privy to the training as UN Women have a particular focus on the development of democracies in Melanesia countries.
Fiji has recently been added to the list and in the move to help Fiji move forward, the UN Women has funded the training of 20 trainers to facilitate BRIDGE workshops.
The 20 trained facilitators have undergone very intense training in the past couple of weeks and will be conducting their first round of trainings in the coming weeks.
Though the trainers will be looking at only some of the modules, there is a comprehensive curriculum available in the BRIDGE resource kit that any BRIDGE trainer can use.
The essence of BRIDGE is the very simple yet very comprehensive curriculum, resources and methodology available that anyone can use and modify to suit their context.
The content encompasses all aspects of elections ranging from gender and elections, electoral contestants, electoral observation, media and elections, electoral assistants, electoral dispute resolution, voter information and civic education.
As Fiji embarks in this new constitutional journey and as we try to map out new electoral boundaries and electoral type, it is crucial that we realise the significance of each step to women's participation.
Though we are months away from a new constitution it is crucial that we start involving women in all aspects of the electoral cycle as their participation at the national elections will be the proof that the groundwork which the BRIDGE curriculum will address, is truly successful.
The next couple of weeks will see trainings for leaders in the Eastern, Western, Central and Northern divisions.
This is a good time for leaders to see that the essence of a good government is the working together of all the components of the election cycle.
It may seem that BRIDGE is a new acronym on the market but the work that it is involved in is a fundamental issue in all democracies and that is elections and the electoral process.
As the UN Women and the BRIDGE program is rolled out, it is our hope that more Fiji citizens will realise that this is our country, it is our future, it is our elections and we need to be involved in all components of the electoral cycle starting from voter registration.
Are you involved yet? If you haven't, the question you need to ask is why not?
* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.