Women lead democratisation processes, Fiji

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Women’s rights activists and groups in Fiji have been playing a vital role in country’s democratisation processes.

It is the critical time for people in Fiji having the constitutional and electoral processes towards the general elections scheduled to take place in September 2014. It is expected to be the first democratic elections since the military coup in 2006.

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), based in Suva, the capital city of Fiji has been engaging in the dialogues for democratic governance, advocating for women’s rights, empowering women to empower people in Fiji.

Virisila Buadromo, Executive Director of FWRM shared the key strategies FWRM has been taking to push forward Fiji’s democratization from feminist perspective.

FWRM has been involved in Fiji’s democratisation processes for six years. Two Forums have been set up by women’s organisations to consolidate our efforts towards the Constitution and  the elections in 2014.

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The Women’s Forum has been convened to discuss and promote the participation of women in the constitutional and electoral processes in Fiji.

We took a strategic and effective way to promote wider participation in the process. Women’s groups provided feedback to the draft Constitution, particularly on women’s human rights issue. We also reached wider populations and encouraged them to participate in the process. It turned out that 7,000 submissions were made in total by various groups and individuals.

Preparing for the election next year the Women’s Forum is identifying women candidates and supporting them through capacity development programme and fund raising. Forum’s strategy extends to public education to let more people vote for women. Women also talk to the political parties to include women’s human rights in their manifestos.

The Fiji Women’s Forum is co-convened by the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, the National Council of Women, Soqosoqo Vakamarama and femLINKpacific.

Young Women’s Forum

Youths are expected to play a key role in the coming election. Young women in particular have potential and capacity to influence the process and the result.

Building on its Young Women in Leadership Programme, FWRM mobilises 18 to 25 year-old women to participate in the election as candidates, voters and/or election monitors.

Five groups come together and coordinate the Young Women’s Forum. Those are Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, femLINKpacific, Generation X and YWCA Fiji.

Participation is crucial

Fiji’s governance system is male dominated. For example, there are very few women in village leaders. But change can happen, I believe, when people are informed and consulted in a democratic way and participate in the processes.

Challenges are the repressive laws which limit the freedom of assembly and freedom of media. Those have been obstacles for civil society in Fiji.

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Virisila, who used to be a journalist, radio news presenter, knows how the freedom in those areas is basic and crucial condition for healthy society.

The oppression, however, never stops Viri and her colleagues from advocating for women’s human rights and leading people in Fiji to go through the path towards more democratic society.

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