LAST week, Suva was in a state of frenzy and almost chaos, as we received information about an impending Tsunami ,which was generated by an earthquake near the Solomon Islands.
I had gone into a well known shopping outlet to get my laptop fixed, but just as the technician started to load the program, I was informed by the shop manager that the complex was closing and everyone was asked to evacuate. In haste I went to the carpark and was lucky that my parking fee was waived.
As I rushed out of the complex I was dismayed to see the line of cars queuing up to get out of Suva. A young police officer frantically tried to control drivers who were obviously trying to get to their children (I presume), as there was no shortage of very descriptive words floating in the air.
I thought to myself, "I am not going to be perturbed by all this but instead will enjoy the music and listen to the voice of the announcer."
I sat in the same spot for almost an hour and moved a few meters from the corner at Cainnes Jannif to the top of the hill where St Annes Primary school is located.
I knew the danger I was in and while I listened to the three o'clock news update and later four o'clock news update, where the public was informed that there was no danger,I was still queuing up the hill and thinking if there had been a Tsunami then I would have been sucked out by the wave.
One thing that came to mind was that, in all the chaos , people knew what to do but they could not get out of the city to pick up children or loved ones and many were stuck in traffic.
There is a dire need for access routes to be opened if you are travelling out of Suva town, and there should be the right personnel to direct traffic effectively. There should also be a co-ordination between the media and communication channels so that the public is not left in a state of panic, but that there is a clear communication path. Even after 4pm, when there was no more danger, I was followed by a Police vehicle with the intention of escorting me off the Suva foreshore: which at that point in time was the only clear route to take as the Knolly street and Toorak routes was still a tangled maze of cars. It was quite clear that the officers good intention was wasted and they would have been more useful elsewhere.
All this drama made me realize that often, when women encounter violence, they have an escape route in mind, but because there is no clear guideline, or some officials are given wrong instructions on what to do and how to respond to instances of violence, women are left stuck in the traffic or in their problems, without any clear direction and directives on where to move to.
This week, women all over the world try to find an escape route by celebrating one Billion Rising. This is the call for women around the globe to stand up, speak up, pray,dance, walk, or do something to speak up against the violence faced by women.
One out of three women in the world would have suffered some form of violence in her lifetime and, on February 14th, which is Valentine's Day, women are rising up symbolically to end the violence and atrocities faced by women.
These include female circumcision, acid attacks, cultural practices and norms which suppress and violate women.
A recent national survey of women in Fiji has found that more than three out of five (64 per cent) of women who have ever been in a relationship have experience physical or sexual violence or both by a husband or intimate partner.
The survey also recorded that rates of physical, sexual and emotional violence against women and partners were higher in the rural areas than in the urban areas. Furthermore, the survey also recorded that there was a high incidence of violence against women across all ages, divisions, age groups, education levels, ethnic groups and religions.
In a nutshell, the survey was trying to raise the issue that violence against women is rife in Fiji and it is not only a crime but needs to be seriously addressed by all who love their mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, grandaunts, nieces and daughters. It is an evil plague and we must all rise up and show what we can do to stop the men who constantly deprive our little girls and women of their sanity, their lives, their future. These men must be stopped and they must be stopped now. They could become a tidal wave and rue the day this evil act becomes a tsunami and filters every layer of our society.
However, just like the escape routes that need to be laid down by the emergency evacuation officials, Fiji needs to have an escape route to escape the evil scourge of rapists, violators of women and children.
One way is to participate in any of the One Billion Rising events organized this week and support the elimination of violence programs by the Fiji Women's Crisis center and other women's organizations.
We must support the prevention against violence programs conducted by faith based organizations and women's group and lastly, we must not just hear but learn, understand and apply this knowledge in our homes, families, societies and vanua.
We know that a tidal wave is coming and we need to have clear signposts on how to react. If we do not, then we will still be stuck in our problems without any idea of getting out of our mess.
If you are encountering violence in your homes or you see or hear that your neighbor is, be a good neighbor and help them.
Please contact the National Council of Women Fiji or any of their affiliate organizations in your area,
Contact the Fiji Women's Crisis Center and share your problemâ€¦
Rise up ..and find a away out of the maze by sharing, asking for help and empowering yourself.
You do not deserve to be violated and neither does your mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, grandaunt, daughter and niece.
Come on Fiji let us rise up this week and wear purple on February 14th.Show that you hate violence against women and be part of the billions around the world fighting against this social evil!
Join the National Council of Women at the FTA Hall as we celebrate One Billion Rising this week.
* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. The views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.