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Young Women From Western Division Focus Of FWRM Leadership Programme

Twenty young women representatives from Lautoka, Ba and Tavua have now joined the eighth cohort (8) of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement’s Emerging Leaders Forum (ELF) programme.

FWRM today conducted the orientation workshop for the ELF 8 group whose members are for the first time since the inception of the ELF Programme in 2003, all recruited from the western division with most residing in rural and informal communities. The ELF 8 programme is supported by the Australian Government through the Fiji Women’s Fund.

FWRM Executive Director Nalini Singh said that FWRM was excited with the new direction of the programme and shifting the focus this year to young women from informal and rural communities in the west, particularly as they have been the most heavily impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic.

Ms Singh said the new strategy also ensures that young women from the division are able to access feminist leadership training and FWRM continues to contribute towards developing and strengthening young women’s leadership and advocacy skills and their capacity in decision making spaces.

"On top of other societal prejudices, young women face multiple discrimination due to their age, gender and abilities and are often deprived of support to raise their opinions and adrress issues that affect them. These challenges are exacerbated further by socio economic factors such as loss of income and threats to safety and security post-disasters. FWRM is privileged to be able to provide the platform that will equip these young women with leadership skills and help them to critically analyse socio-political-economic issues through a feminist and gender approach," she said.

A Rapid Assessment conducted by FWRM in 2020 on the Impact of the Pandemic (COVID-19) on Young Women and Girls, found that 65 percent of 329 young women respondents studying in universities highlighted economic challenges, the lack of access to Internet and laptops, increase in unpaid care work and difficulties in managing time between household, academic and professional responsibilities. 71 percent of the respondents indicated an increase of household responsibilities compared to the males in their families.

The ELF 8 programme runs from April to October, 2021 and consists of 12 modules with a series of workshops on different thematic areas including women’s human rights, leadership, violence against women, economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive health and rights, climate justice and more.

The workshops will be facilitated by FWRM staff and other renowned feminist and human rights defenders in the country.

"I'm excited and am looking forward to learning more about gender equality and the issues surrounding human and women's rights. I want to learn about my rights as a young woman and how to use my voice to advocate, especially against the challenges that women face in the communities including the increasing prevalence of violence against women and rape," said ELF 8 member, Hetali Lata of Tavua.

More than 100 young women have graduated from the programme and now work across Fiji, the Pacific and globally, some continuing within the feminist, human rights and civil society movements.

"The growth of ELF graduates in leadership positions within their various organisations reflect the values and the success of the ELF programme and the need for such leadership training for young women. Many of these graduates continue to be advocates of gender equality and diverse women's rights," Ms Singh said.

The ELF programme is designed for young women between the ages of 18-25 years with an intergenerational leadership learning approach.

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