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Changing perceptions

Siteri Sauvakacolo
Monday, June 19, 2017

A FATHER returns home from work tired after a hard, long day. Entering the home, he is welcomed with a loving hug, a lovely dinner and the warm greetings from his children.

Important as his children are, and also their contributions to the wellbeing of the family, they could not have done all these alone without the help of possibly the most important person, in terms of being the glue of a family, their mother.

For the most part, mothers work tirelessly to ensure families are kept together, the children are well looked after and their father comes home to see them doing whatever it is they are doing — together.

From this viewpoint, it can be argued that the backbone of a family, a society, government or even the vanua are its women. They have always worked tirelessly to ensure every need is met, every person is satisfied and every person they serve goes away content with how they have been delat with.

Despite all their commitments and everything they do in our communities, many a time, their hard work seems to go unnoticed.

Many women's organisations have been set up and churches and other bodies have supported the move for women to be recognised in their societies.

And while so much awareness has been carried out about the need to recognise women's tireless contribution to our society, some still do not appreciate the invaluable work women carry out for the benefit of their children, families and communities.

Women are the people in our societies who never complain about the heavy loads they bear; the many times they may have had to cook even if unwell, the many clothes they have to wash even if feeling the cold and ensuring the bloodline carries on.

Women, for the most part even if they may have a stern countenance, have a soft heart and carry their burden with strength believing they are there to cater for their family's needs and they are always ready to do whatever is required.

The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, in one of its articles published by this newspaper, stated that working towards achieving gender equality was equally important as any other development agenda in Fiji.

It stated gender relations were the social and economic relationships in any family, community, workplace or society between men and women.

"When we look at gender, we should not just focus on how women and men are different. We should not consider women or girls and their needs in isolation," the FWCC stated.

"It is very important to understand how women's and men's lives are woven together, especially if we want to work towards gender equality.

"Gender relations are power relations — this is important for understanding the causes of violence against women and gender discrimination."

The organisation, which has been fighting for the rights of women in the country, believed Fijians were socialised to accept that men were more powerful than women.

Women are taught how to be "feminine" and men are taught how to be "masculine".

The gendering process promotes and reinforces gender stereotypes.

These result in discrimination against women, their exclusion from certain roles, the view that women are inferior to men, the view that it is OK for men to discipline women and that women's work is less valuable and less important than men's.

These attitudes and beliefs are internalised by both women and men — that is, they come to be seen as "natural" and "normal" and they are institutionalised by social institutions such as the family, education, customary law and the legal justice system.

It is sometimes assumed that women themselves are the problem; Being seen as backward, poor, illiterate, ignorant and powerless.

Assistant Women's Minister Veena Bhatnagar, in her opening remarks at the National Women's Expo rural fashion show, outlined how women played a very vital role in society.

Women, she said, were a pillar of strength in any society and this went very well with this year's women's expo theme, "Be Empowered, Be the change", which is very much in line with the United Nations theme for 2017, "Women in the changing world of work: Planet 50-50 by 2030".

The two common elements in both themes are changes and women's economic empowerment.

"We need to change our attitude towards empowering women; we have to stop seeing them as unequal members of the society and as not having economic capabilities as much as men," Mrs Bhatnagar said.

"It is a great loss for any family, community and nation that believes in leaving behind half of the members of their population in development.

"The only way to grow is to bank on the capabilities and capacities of every person regardless of gender.

"With changing times, it is great to see that women have begun earning for their families and this comes with bigger responsibilities for families, policy makers and leaders to create an equitable environment for women."

While juggling the roles of being a father and a mother in any family, women still find their time to do other work which can bring revenue to their family.

This was evident at the National Women's Expo in Suva last week.

The display of various handicrafts and household items which were done solely by these women were signs of their hard work and never ending commitment to every work they love on this earth.

* Next week: The struggles of rural women.

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