Empowering women

Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands and Mineral Resources, Faiyaz Koya and Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa pictured with Fijian Crafted Licenses recipients during the 2018 National Women's Expo at the FMF Gymnasium in Suva on Saturday, June 23, 2018. Picture: VISHAAL KUMAR

GREATER participation of women is of course needed in national development.

Women play a very crucial role in our society just like they do in their own homes.

Gone are the days when women were made to stay home and look after the welfare of their children and their family.

In the employment sectors around the world today, women have become leaders and many have joined male-dominated industries while many others have helped one way or the other in the growth of an organisation or a company.

Despite their greater contribution to society, it is sad to note that gender discrimination still remains a huge barrier to our society.

There are still people who believe that women belong at home, in the kitchen and if they work, they are only fit for indoor work.

It’s quite positive to see changes happening in some organisations particularly in places such as the Fiji Police Force, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and a few others where women have entirely been part of their male-dominated institute.

The Minister for Women, Mereseini Vuniwaqa, said while Fiji could boast of women getting equal access to education as their male counterparts, they, especially those in rural areas had limited economic opportunities such as access to training, financial services and resources.

“The greatest misconception is that formal education is the only way that can enable a woman’s economic participation,” Mrs Vuniwaqa said.

“Women have forever been active in informal sectors, engaging in long hours of unpaid labour and have always been the pillar of support behind the economically active men in her surroundings. It’s as simple as saying, men have been able to work outside their homes because they had wives to look after the home and raise the children.

“And because of that and other socio-economic reasons we left behind half the population’s resourcefulness and contributions in the development of the nation.”

Inclusive and sustainable development around the world, leaving no one behind is the overarching vision of the UN’s 2030 Agenda and also a promise of the government. Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are central to the realisation of this vision, yet gender gaps remain large, pervasive and persistent.

Mrs Vuniwaqa said women’s economic empowerment is the right and smart thing to do.

“Women’s rights are human rights and the human rights case for gender equality is incontrovertible.

“The human development, economic and business gains from empowering women are substantial.

“Greater gender equality means a country is associated with better education and health, higher per capita income, faster and more inclusive economic growth, and greater international competitiveness.”

A report of the UN shows that there are four overarching factors that impede gender equality in all forms of work and at all levels of development; which are adverse social norms, discriminatory laws and insufficient legal protections, gender gaps in unpaid household and care work, and unequal access to digital, financial and property assets.

“It is therefore, time to address adverse stereotypes and implicit biases in our society and also to implement women friendly policies and projects to promote greater economic participation of women in national development.”

Women especially in Fiji have proven they can do work men can do, they can work long hours, they survive in any workplace and any work given to them is done on time and done to the best of their ability.