THE European Union's Pacific Ambassador, Andrew Jacobs, has launched the EU-funded project titled 'The empowerment of rural women and girls in reproductive health'.
A statement said the project was conceived by Viseisei Sai Health Centre medical director associate Professor Swaran Naidu, who said the wellness of many women was affected by their poor reproductive health.
The statement said the EU funding would enable the team from health centre to reach out to rural women from Ba to Nadi.
It said many women were disempowered by poverty, isolation, unable to make decisions about their own health and social taboos regarding sexually related topics. The disempowerment is aggravated by difficulties accessing reproductive health information and care.
Professor Naidu is a gynaecologist with more than 30 years experience in women's health internationally and in Fiji. Her team will reach out to tertiary institutions, high schools and women's groups to educate the educators about reproductive health matters.
In addition with the assistance of the Fiji Cancer Society's Western branch they will provide outreach clinical services for cervical and breast cancer screening and assist women with their family planning needs.
In his speech, Mr Jacobs underlined the significance of gender issues.
"The EU places a tremendous importance on gender issues, both at home and in the global context as it is a crucial cross-cutting item in all of EU projects and programmes in the region — whether in fisheries, in climate change, in access to energy," she said.
"Looking at the Pacific region, the EU remains very concerned about the situation across the region, in particular with the high prevalence of violence against women, and the low participation of women in public life."
Mr Jacobs said "to address the gender situation most effectively, we need a strong commitment by our partners, we need engagement at the highest level".