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Response: Luveni/Women Must Be Visible

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Response: Luveni/Women Must Be Visible

Dr Luveni is quoted (Fiji Times online 15/1) as saying "...the onus is on women to convince the voters that they can become parliamentarians" and that the Ministry of Women is ready to provide assistance.

I would say it is not for women to prove themselves as capable representatives of their communities in parliament, local government or advisory councils and committees but that society at large must recognise that gender equality in decision making is a prequisite for peace and sustainable development.

The role of the Ministry of Women is to ensure Fiji's treaty obligations particularly the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women is entrenched into processes of the state/government machinery and that community education programmes are aligned to a women's rights based approach.

I hope the Ministry of Women is providing relevant advice on the Constitution Making process.

Women's leaders, such as through the Fiji Women's Forum and rights-based organisation have been advocating for equality in decision making including through Temporary Special Measures.

Since the second Women’s Forum in June 2012, and despite the very limited time allocated by the State for civic education and the often disempowering spaces for women in which the consultations were held, Women’s Forum representatives effectively mobilized to deliver over 125 rights based civic education campaigns and programs in communities around Fiji enabling the participation of women in all our diversities, particularly rural women and other minority groups in the Constitutional Consultation process.

As a result of the Women’s Forum’s civic education activities, over 650 individual and group submissions were made, which included submissions advocating for a strengthened Bill of Rights that includes the full range of civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights and for increased women’s participation in decision making roles in particular through Temporary Special Measures as well as providing recommendations on Security Sector Governance and decision making strctures.

I hope the Ministry of Women reflects on the National Women's Plan of Action and collaborates with the relevant women's NGOs to further advance the collective goals of gender equality particularly at a critical time of ensuring there is equity enshrined throughout the democratization process, elections and beyond.

I hope the Ministry of Women will ensure that all the women's groups and individual women who made submissions to the 2012 constitution making process are also given a copy of the Constitution Comissions drafts and that what women have said should form the basis of public discussion as well as the basis of the process for the Constituent Assembly. That is essential for our democratization process to be gender inclusive.

The other step would to finalising the National Gender Policy with women's rights groups.

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Executive Director: FemLINKPacific (


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