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Let's all move Fiji

Fay Volatabu
Monday, November 19, 2012

THE previous week was an exhilarating experience as we watched the race for the White House. The world watched with bated breath as we wondered who was going to be in the Oval Office. Was the incumbent going to be in for a second wind or would the new man running be the winner. In the end the elected leader of the free world, the President of the US of America was finally announced and Barack Obama made his victory speech to the millions who watched the live telecast the world over.

After the electoral race, both camps would have done a SWOT analysis to see what went wrong or what went right. How could things have been better or what could be avoided the next time around.

For an organiser of any event, the most important thing is not the actual staging of the event but the analysis of the event. This usually gives us an idea of what went right, what went wrong, the weaknesses of the process, the obstacles, what were the things that hindered our progress and the things that were potentially harmful to the event.

In Fiji the race to give in submissions has been completed and while some lament that they could not give their submissions some are quietly jubilant that they had the opportunity to present their submissions whether it be verbally or in written and electronic form.

What we need to do now is analyse the process. Was it as good as we expected it to be or were there flaws? Were there things that could have been improved or challenged. Were there threats or challenges to the whole process?

One of the first things we need to look at is, who participated.

How did they participate and for whose benefit did they participate. Did they speak for themselves, their creed, their kind? Who were excluded? Who had excluded themselves or why did they exclude themselves?

For those who participated, what was the measure of their participation?

S. Arnstein's in his Ladder of Participation (1969), defines three types of participation and this is that of citizen power at the top, tokenism in the middle and non-participation at the bottom.

In citizen power, the citizens have power and they have total control of any process as well as engaged as partners in the participation process.

In Tokenism, there is consultation, the dissemination of information to individuals to ensure that there is some measure of participation. This is usually to placate people but is not a guarantee of their full participation.

In non participation the term is as it states, non participatory and there is manipulation by one of the parties involved in the process.

Jules Pretty states in her typology of participation, that there are seven types of participation and these are manipulative participation on one end and self mobilization on the other end of the scale.

The seven typologies are manipulative participation which is participation by pretense.

The second is passive participation where people participate by being told what has already been decided.

The third is participation by consultation where people participate by answering questions or external agents define problems and gather information and there is no obligation to take on people's views.

The fourth is participation for material incentives and this is when people participate by contributing resources. The fifth is functional participation where people participate by forming groups to meet pre determined objectives.

The sixth is interactive participation where people participate in joint analysis and where participation is seen as a right and not just a means to achieve an ends. The highest level of participation is self mobilization where people participate by initiatives independent of external institutions to change systems.They develop contacts with external institutions for resources and technical advice.

According to the definitions of participation the common thread is for people to participate by inculcating skills that empower and enable them to effectively participate.

For the National Council of Women of Fiji, civic education was conducted in over 100 communities, but what needs to be assessed is how participatory was the process. What typology of participation would best describe the process of civic education that we were involved in. As we look at the Fiji process after the whole constitutional submissions exercise, how participatory was the whole process? How did it effectively involve the citizes of Fiji. Did the process involve citizen's power, tokenism or was it non- participatory? Was their manipulative participation,passive participation, participation by consultation,participation for material incentives, functional participation, interactive participation or was their self mobilization.

The process of constitutional submission has been done but we now look forward to the election of the constitutional Assembly. Will the process be fully participatory or will there be limitations in our participation. We need to ensure that we participate fully in all our democratic processes. After all International conventions dictate that we participate in all national processes. Such obligations are spelt out in Article 21 of the UDHR, Article 1(1) and Article 24 of ICCPR and general comments 25; Article 5 of ICERD; Article 7 of CEDAW and Article 29 of CRPD.

For us as a nation having just gone through the first step in our exercise of nation building, we must reflect and see where we have erred and what can we improve on in the next phase. This is our nation and as women; mothers, grandmothers and sisters we must teach our families that we must participate. We can not sit back and be a spectator anymore.

Our full participation will foster national unity, mitigate against populists movements, partisan interests and polarization of conflicts. It will also foster greater inclusiveness, greater awareness and information sharing and innovation among our citizens.

Let us all move forward together and move our nation as we participate collectively in the next steps of our constitution and nation building process.

God bless Fiji.

* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. Email: or The views expressed are hers and not those of The Fiji Times.

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