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Rise with us you guys

Fay Volatabu
Monday, February 18, 2013

WHAT do you do to relax? Some read, some play, some watch movies while some go to a pub or sit around a bowl to share stories.

I like to do two things in one activity and that is to watch this program on FBC TV called "Bati ni Tanoa". Mind you I am not a grog swiper but what I like is that this program combines three of my favourite pass times, that is watch a movie, sit around a grog bowl with friends and laugh.

It is no wonder then that friends from around the country tune in to this program. I must thank FBC TV for taking this favourite local pass time and using it to transfer the same vibes to friends around the globe and make them feel that they are back home laughing with friends. What gets me about these guys is that they rib each other and they laugh at their own stupid jokes and beats everyone to react, which cracks me up. I think my family thinks that sometimes I am mad because they know that I am alone in my flat yet they hear me laughing out loud on Thursday evenings.

I mean a Fijian or a Pacific Islander will always be one .. take away the sophistication, the Western education, the good job, the car and all we have is our sense of humour and our grog bowl.

Since this is one of our favourite things to do, my question then is why don't we use this medium more often to discuss issues. I know for a fact in my younger years watching my dad and also in my stint as being a board member at one of Fiji's more ethnic institutions that grog bowl diplomacy is rife in Fiji.

Even now as an advocate for women, I know that the workshop extends into the night as we discuss issues over the grog bowl after dinner. It is not the grog but the vibes around the bowl as we sit, relaxed with friends that allows the creative juices to flow and decisions and deals are made. I have heard of golf course diplomacy but I believe that in this part of the world the workshops are not so effective as the after-workshop events. I have been to more dialogues and workshops now where there is more after meeting functions, to allow participants to talk and I believe they have been successful.

Last week the National Council of Women Fiji co-hosted with one of our affiliate organisations, Rainbow Women's Network as part of their work on EVAW, celebrated One Billlion Rising, not by marching but by rising the Pacific way, and that was by having a KK Night. KK stands for kava and konversation and this is the transformation of our favourite pastime and culture into an information gathering and information dissemination tool.

For years we in the Pacific make deals and discuss pertinent issues around the bowl but it has escaped many that what many would think is a waste of time is really one of the most powerful tools for advocacy and information sharing.

At this KK night there were about 10 men amidst women and the topic of discussion was the elimination of violence against women. Men would not have necessarily turned up at a workshop but as the session was around the grog bowl, the whispers, the nods, the learning was quite obvious as the women shared stories and the men and children as well as the youth listened. The feeling of family and camaraderie was evident in the air as we shared our concerns about the current trend of rape, violence and atrocities levelled against women and girls.

You might be asking so what? No that is not the response I wanted. What I was expecting was more like, "Hey, I do that all the time so what's new?" What's new is that we need to use our grog circles to talk about issues. Evidence has shown that some of the uncles, fathers, grandfathers who sit around the tanoa night after night, who we thought were our relatives, have been the very same people who have cooked up very, very evil acts towards our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and nieces.

I am urging all men that as you sit around the kava bowl. Please denounce this act so that these culprits feel bad and realise that they are evil and that no one, not even their grog buddies like what they are doing. Talk about what you will do against this evil men, talk about what they need to do, talk about what help they need to go for, talk about the effect of their evil acts on our women and children and tell them how you feel and what you will do. Tell them no one likes them. Tell them to stop.

For years women have been struggling with this issue and last week the Women's Crisis Center gave Fiji and the world the astounding revelation that these violent acts are often in families of very religious people. It is not the church, it is not the vanua, it is not the family, that is to be blamed but they have stood by while this evil people sat amidst them at grog sessions, in church, in temples and got away with it.

I am now urging all leaders,that the next time you sit and laugh around the grog bowl, remember that the very same bowl does not just relax but it is also a tool to advocate, to discuss and resolve issues.

Please Fiji, let us have more KK nights and really have a conversation about what can be done to prevent and stop violence against women and children.

If you love your mother, if you love your grandmother, if you love your sister, if you love your aunt, if you love your daughter, if you love your niece. PLEASE SPEAK UP!

Make the nights spent around the grog bowl worthwhile and talk sense. Resolve and act now and show us , the women in your lives that we matter and you are not going to take this violence against us anymore.

We urge you to RISE UP with us and help us stop this scourge from taking over our country.


Are you game enough to join us?

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

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