Power through women

A HUNDRED women from the Eastern Division were able to access social, economic and legal services and increase their awareness on the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Fiji during a workshop organised last month in Suva.

The workshop was co-ordinated by the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project implemented by the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) Pacific Office in Fiji in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, and the Legal Aid Commission with support from the Government of Japan and UNDP.

The workshop aimed to empower women by providing opportunities to access information and services for women who came from maritime communities; Lau, Kadavu, Lomaiviti and Rotuma who are particularly challenged in this regard because of their geographical location.

They had the opportunity to strengthen their knowledge on issues concerned them such as gender equality and gender-based violence. The women were also provided with individual services by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Legal Aid Commission, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and Fiji Police Force.

Rotuma Women’s Association president Marieta Tiuhe’a said: “The Social Welfare services, Legal Aid services, information on the issue of child abuse and other information that was shared during the REACH program was an eye-opener for us. It was very informative.

“We, 14 of us, are privileged to be part of the program. We don’t have many chances to have this kind of awareness raising so we will share what we learned with our people back home.”

Livia Mariwa of Nabukelevu, a district in the province of Kadavu, found the REACH service delivery a good opportunity to obtain necessary information to assist elderly women in her women’s club.

“In the rural areas, we have limited opportunity to access information and services.

“I found the REACH program is the chance for us to do so. It will assist for the needs of our elders who are the foundation of our women’s club.

“I am getting information on how to obtain assistance so they can benefit from those services such as bus/boat fare assistance and social pension scheme,” she said.

Providing the opportunity for women to have increased knowledge and access to information and services then enables women to support others who need assistance. Empowering women will result in empowering more people through them and further support gender equality which is a crucial condition for sustainable development.

The participants travelled from their island communities to Suva to attend the Fiji National Women’s EXPO 2017 organised by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation from June 14-16, 2017.

The women were warmly welcomed to the workshop by Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa.

“You, the women of the Eastern Division, from the provinces of Lau, Kadavu, Lomaiviti and Rotuma have travelled days ahead of the National Women’s Expo from so far away,” said Mrs Vuniwaqa.

“Rural women are leaders, entrepreneurs and service providers, and their contributions are vital to the wellbeing of families, communities and economies, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We saw this time as an opportune one to bring to you essential services under the co-ordination of the REACH Project.”

She also raised the issue of gender-based violence as big obstacle in the empowerment of women and identified the efforts made by Government and communities to eradicate violence including the recently launched national domestic violence helpline.

“Gender-based violence is one of the most severe, detrimental, and inhumane obstacles in the empowerment of women. One thing we have understood well is that gender-based violence is a result of gender inequality.”

Mrs Vuniwaqa said: “I wish to remind you that it is your right to be safe, protected and to have access to justice through legal services.

“I hope you have taken good note of the services that are available for you and all Fijian women and that you will help anyone in need with relevant information regarding these services.”

Christine Fowler, UNDP program manager for Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Human Rights said: “As of 12 June 2017, 4775 people have benefitted from the REACH Project awareness raising and service delivery of which 2326 are women.

“Also, 3428 services have been accessed by people including 2158 services provided to women by the REACH team comprised the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Legal Aid Commission and Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission.”

The Government has endorsed the global Sustainable Development Goals which aim to ensure that no one will be left behind and endeavour to reach the furthest behind first.

Goal 16 is a commitment to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

For Goal 5, there is commitment to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

The REACH Project supports the achievement of these goals.

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