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FWRM Marks The Beginning Of The 16 Days Of Activism, Welcoming Govt’s Commitment To A National Action Plan Against VAW

FWRM kicked off the 16 Days of Activism today as part of the historic launch for the consultation process of the Fiji National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG).

The launch of the consultations for the National Action Plan is particularly significant today as the women’s human rights movement marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls and the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence. FWRM is part of the Technical Working Group for the NAP process.

FWRM commends the Fiji Government for their commitment towards the development of the National Action Plan.

“We would also like to acknowledge the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation (MOWCPA) Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa for her advocacy and support to promote gender equality,” said FWRM Executive Director, Nalini Singh.

“It was encouraging to hear the Fijian Prime Minister acknowledge the reality of the grave human rights violations that women and girls in this country face. We note his comments and recognise the efforts being put towards ending violence against women and girls.”

During his address, the Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama called for improved attitudes to end gender-based violence, recognising women’s equal contributions to society and challenging cultural norms that discriminated against women and girls. He also acknowledged the work of civil society and women’s human rights groups.

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“It’s promising to hear statistics and issues that women’s human rights groups have worked persistently on for years be reiterated on a national platform by the highest-level leaders of our country. With the 16 Days of Activism, it is time that gender-based violence be given this national attention and platform because it affects all of us so closely,” said Ms. Singh.

“At the same time, urgent action to address gender-based violence across all sectors of society is long overdue. We have a shadow pandemic on our hands that we have let go on for so long and it has had a great cost for families, women, girls, marginalised communities that have faced extreme discrimination and violence, and even the loss of lives.”

Last year, 10 lives were lost to domestic violence, as reiterated by the Prime Minister today. He highlighted that 64 per cent of Fijian women have faced intimate partner violence, a finding from the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre 2013 research. Despite the high rates of violence, women still face barriers accessing justice and reporting their issues.

It takes 868 days for a woman to report her issues of violence to the police, according to FWRM’s 2017 research. This was particularly evident this year as FWRM’s Access to Justice rapid assessment found that during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown there was a significant increase in calls to the domestic violence helplines but this did not correlate to the lower reports made to the police. In addition to this, sexual violence against women and girls is disturbingly high. For the period of 2016 – 2019, 62% of the victim/survivor has been under the age 17 years. This is from the rape case analysis being decided by the High Court. Workspaces are not safe either, with 1 in 5 Fijian women having had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace according to FWRM’s 2016 research.

“Building a country that is safe and free from violence and that respects all human rights is a responsibility that we all bear. We are pleased to see leaders at the national level pledge their support to end violence against women but this commitment must come from all of us as violence is happening within all our spaces, at home, in schools, in the workplaces, in Church and our communities,” said Ms. Singh.

“We encourage everyone to be part of the 16 Days of Activism, however they can. Share information, challenge cultural barriers, call out normalised toxic language, promote gender equality and dismantle patriarchy.”

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence culminates with World Human Rights Day on December 10, which is annually commemorated in Fiji with a march organised by the NGO Coalition on Human Rights.

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