内陸の村の暮らし

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女性福祉省と法律サービスのスタッフと村に行ってきました。今回は四日間、ナイタシリ県の内陸の村を回ってきました。川の支流がたくさんあり、フィジー最大のダムがあります。今回訪れた中でも一番遠くのナサバ村の生活を紹介します。

首都のスバから車で約一時間、ナイタシリ県の町ブニダワに着きます。町役場、郵便局、病院、よろづや約二件の小さな町です。そこからさらに4WDで約一時間山道を行くと、車が入れる最後の村、サワニクラ村に着きます。公共のバスもこの近くまで来ます。

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ハイキングはここからです。荷物はレンタルした馬二頭にお願いして、一行は河原を山に向かってスタート。この川の上流に村があるのですが、道はありません。川を何度も横切って、こっち側あっち側、ゆるいがけを上って下りて、進みます。川の流れは速く、しっかり踏ん張って進まないと足をとられそうです。水は透明で、底の石がきれいに見えます。

途中に小学校があります。子供たちは毎週末この川を渡って家に帰り、また学校に戻ってきます。河原には牛、馬、豚が放されていて、カサバ芋を植えた畑もあります。

 

川を20回以上渡り、2時間半歩いたところで、目指す村が現れました。村の前は川、後ろは山です。川のさらに上流にはもう一つ村があります。

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家はトタンぶきで構造はとてもシンプルです。土間とひと部屋、床にはわらを敷きその上にござをかぶせてあります。この床に座り、ご飯を食べ、寝ます。いすもテーブルもありません。ドアに鍵のかからない家もあり、犬や鶏が入ってきたりもします。キャンプみたいな気分です。

昼食には、川からとってきたばかりの芹とふかしたカサバ芋をいただきました。しばらくすると大雨、トタン屋根に落ちる激しい雨音で他には何も聞こえません。それでも、福祉サービスを申請するために、隣の村から何人か、雨の様子を見ながら、川を渡って歩いてきました。雨の中大変だったんじゃない?と尋ねると、「うーん、川をわたって15分ぐらいよ」とのこと。川は増水して歩くのは大変だったはずです。

集会所は発電機で電気をつけるので、何とか暗くはありません。各家はソーラーの電球一つです。夜になれば寝るということです。水はダムがあるので水道がつかえますが、村ごとに村長さんが管理するので、水道は夜8時にストップ、朝8時までありません。朝早くに子供たちが川で歯磨き、水浴びをしています。料理をするのは焚き木の火です。焚き木の火で沸かしたお湯で入れたお茶は格別で、ガスや電気ポットで沸かしたお茶とは断然違います。

村の朝は白い霧のかかる中、外でまきを割る音、子供たちがバレーボールで遊ぶ声がします。

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電話回線はなく、携帯電話のシグナルは村のところどころで拾えるようです。もちろんテレビもインターネットもなく、ラジオも各家にはありません。新聞は町を往復するバスが持ってきますが、そのバスまでは川を渡って徒歩二時間以上です。病院と警察は村から徒歩二時間半ののちバス一時間超のブニダワ町にありますが銀行はなく、首都のスバまで出ないと利用できません。

nasava15_041116-800x533妊娠九ヶ月の若い女性は、動ける今のうちに村を出て、(徒歩、馬、どちらにしても移動は楽ではありません)町で出産するようすすめられていますが、村にとどまり、先輩ママさんの助産で自宅出産を希望のようです。

昨年通学途中に大怪我をした息子さんを毎月スバの病院まで連れて行くお母さんは生活保護の申請を考えています。生活保護は月額F$50(約2600円)、さらにF$50の食料引換券もついてきますが、引き換えるにはブニダワ町まで行かなければなりません。

私たちの帰り道(川)はゆうべの大雨で増水し、流れも速いですが、水は澄んで、空は晴れています。それでも天気が心配なので、やや急いで、また二時間半かけて、川を数え切れないほど横切り、ふもとのサワニクラ村まで戻りました。

無事戻ってきたのもつかの間、村の集会所でサービスの紹介を始めたころ、激しい雷雨になりました。集会所を一歩出ると村全体が浅い川のよう。ざぶざぶ横切り、本来の川のところまで来ると、橋は濁流に飲まれてしまっていました。なんと雷雨の中、村の人総出で、私たち一人一人と荷物を一つ一つ抱えて渡るしかありません。深さが腰上まである濁流をなんとか渡り切り、みなずぶぬれで車にたどり着きました。

ここからブニダワ町に戻る山道は車で約一時間、濁流で見えなくなった橋を渡り、倒れ掛かっった電柱をかわし、ところどころで入るラジオを聴きながら到着。この雷雨では、上流にある小学校やナサバ村はどうなっているのでしょう。水が引くまでは川沿いは歩けないことでしょう。

今回四日間で、16の村からの250人にお会いし、生活保護、福祉年金などの申請書が30件提出されました。

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Rakiraki, Tavua and Ba, Fiji celebrated International Women’s Day!

rkrk24_smallMany of you may have been in NYC to celebrate the 20th anniversary of BPFA and the International Women’s Day as part of the global-local celebrations. We did it here in Fiji, too.

map_cropedScroll a map and come down to the South Pacific, then zoom in five times, you will see Rakiraki, Tavua and Ba on the northern part of Viti Levu, Fiji. We had ‘hand-made’ women’s day events in those towns with local market vendors.

UN agencies have been providing financial training and access to financial services to local market vendors. A project, Markets 4 Change started training sessions on financial and business first steps in all municipal markets in Fiji last year.

MVs-orange_no creditThis time, coinciding with the International Women’s Day, had purple flavor in the training sessions.

At Rakiraki market we wanted to make an ‘empower women’ banner in their three languages, Fijian, Hindi and English. Fijian women took lead and started painting it on the purple cloth we brought. Hindi speaking women were asking their male colleagues around, how to say ‘empower women’ in Hindi, in Hindi. A young man from uni who came to buy tomatoes got involved, too. They came up with a phrase and brought a man to paint it on the cloth. Finally, a woman talented in calligraphy drew “EMPOWER WOMEN” in English on the last line.

rkrk9_smallAt the beginning of the training session in Rakiraki, a group of women came forward and shared a song about women’s empowerment in Hindi. They also gave a message: women have power – it depends on a woman how her family goes well or bad. It was not on the programme but a spontaneous action they took, which brought a very positive mode to the session.

rkrk41_smallNext training was in Tavua. ‘Prominent women in Tavua’ were invited . Two heads of Tavua – Town Council CEO and District Officer are both women. Together with a representative from a UN agency, a medical doctor, a nurse and an officer from the Ministry of Women, all are women based in Tavua, joined and cut a ‘women’s day’ cake. No celebration, no gathering can go without a cake in Fiji.

tva21_smallBa was the last place for this training/ IWD roadshow. More men than in other places came to participate in the session, which was lovely because all participants including those men, made commitment to supporting empowerment of women by tying purple strings on their lists each other.

ba23_smallThe ‘empower women’ banner was completed by putting ‘Tavua’ and ‘Ba’ on it. We left it there in Ba in the building for women vendors’ accommodation and handicraft centre.

The training round one has been completed in those markets. The training will continue for the round two.

Thank you all who joined the training and the women’s day events!

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FOR THE RIGHT TO HOUSING

vunayasi naibourhood_smallI met Sofiya and Kala directly/ indirectly through a project of cash-for-work after the twin floods in 2012 in Fiji. Both of them participated in the project using their skills and experience in producing bags, cushion covers and others.

The areas Sofiya and Kala live in, Vunayasi and Navakai are low-lying area on the outskirts of Nadi. During heavy rain particularly in cyclone season those areas become flooded more often and quickly than other areas. The places both of them live in are called informal settlements.

LAND

Most of land in Fiji (80-90%) belongs to indigenous Fijian through their hierarchical community/ social system. Europeans and part Europeans, who constitute around 2% of the population, own over 5% of the land. Indo-Fijians, accounting for 43% of Fiji’s citizens, own less than 3%.

All other ethnic categories in Fiji, particularly Indo-Fijians who make up more than 80% of the sugar cane growers, and descendants from other islands such as Solomon Islands, till land of indigenous Fijian landowners. There are also a large number of landless indigenous Fijians who, because they belong to landless or land-short mataqalis (indigenous landowning groups), do not own land or, migrated to other provinces or to town for economic opportunities, study, medical treatments, etc.

Among those whose land leases were not renewed during the political turmoil in the late 1990s and early 2000s, some found themselves jobless and homeless with no other option but put together sheets of corrugated metal and tapeline for a shelter in unoccupied land.

“In-group-out-group sentiments and dynamics have been widely used by political leaders to fan ethnic ‘fears’ over ownership and usufruct of land for political ends. With the expiry of agricultural leases under the Agricultural Landlord and Tenants Act (ALTA) between 1997-2005, a great majority of landowners and the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) have indicated that they would not renew the leases.” (“ALTA and expiring land leases”)

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I had a chance to briefly learn from friends in Fiji and articles about land and housing in Fiji and recent history and society around the issue.

RIGHT TO HOUSING AND SOCIAL PROTECTION

In many cases living conditions in settlements do not meet the right to adequate standard of living, including right to housing and water as enshrined in the CESCR and other human rights instruments.  Social stigma and stereotype towards informal settlements make their living more difficult.

“Women and their kids living in over 200 informal settlements like Kalekana yearn for necessities like proper house, water and toilet. But adequate housing for women is about more than just giving them four walls and a roof. It’s about them living in security, with peace and dignity.”(“Beyond Four Walls”)

“I need a decent and affordable house for my four children. We don’t have water, bathroom and toilet. At night, I walk a few houses away to use the toilet. Taking my young ones is even harder. I do this in complete darkness and often feel I am in danger,” she says, with tears running down her grief-stricken face. (“Beyond Four Walls”)

a customer_smallOne of the most difficult things for Sofiya’s family is the path from her house to the main road which quickly gets muddy after rain. The path is wide enough for cars to pass, but after rain, even a four-wheel vehicle driver was hesitant to go in.  The condition hinders her and her family’s access to transport, market, medical and other social services as well as customers from visiting her shop.

One of the participants in a public discussion on journalism and informal settlements shared that there are many people living in settlements who are from broken families. Among people living in settlements with whom a journalist made interview, some were told by local government that they were not qualified to benefit from government social protection schemes.

Talking about “families”, “communities” and individuals rather than “informal settlements” as a whole, lack of or ineffective social protection system, either governmental or customary, for babies, youth, elderly, people with disabilities, illness, jobless and gender discrimination appears as one of the major issues to be addressed as well.

VOICES AND ACTIONS

???????????????????????????????“I want people to visit our place and know the situation. I have been working for our rights for long. I want my voices to be heard,” said Kala. She advocates for the rights of people in Navakai settlement and others as part of the Land and Housing Cooperative. She is also a member of the Navakai Multi-racial Women’s Club, which participated in the cash-for-work project in 2012.

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Sofiya runs a glossary store at her house, where she displays the bags she made. She also works with people in her community to expand their agricultural and poultry farm. Income from her business enabled her to fix her house which was partially destroyed by the cyclone in 2012. She showed me a colorful quilt as big as a bed cover made by her grand mother. She said she learnt how to sew from the quilt. She does all those things on top of looking after her five-year-old daughter, her mother-in-law next door and household chore for her family.  “We (her group) have skills. Give us opportunities”, she said.

Fiji has not ratified the Convenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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The 2013 Constitution expressly recognises the iTaukei, says Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

“For the first time, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights provide express protection for the ownership of iTaukei lands, which shall always remain with the customary owners and which shall, under no circumstances, be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange,” he said.

“The Constitution goes further to state for the first time in our history that any iTaukei land which is acquired by the State for a particular pubic purpose must revert to the customary owners if that land is no longer required by the State for that specific purpose.”

“Fiji PM reassures iTaukei through Constitutional provisions”

By Online Editor
09:58 am GMT+12, 06/11/2013, Fiji
FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS

References:

§  “Beyond Four Walls”, John Kamea, Mai Life Magazine August Issue

§  Learnings from housing rights workshop in Melanesia PACMAS blog

§  “ALTA and expiring land leases: Fijian farmers’ perceptions of their future”, Professor Vijay Naidu and Dr. Mahendra Reddy, Centre for Development Studies, School of Social and Economic Development, University of the South Pacific (USP) and Pacific Migration Research Network (PacMRN), June 2002

§  “Pilot Fragility Assessment of an Informal Urban Settlement in Fiji”, ADB, March 2013

§  Fiji Government report to CEDAW, 2010,  CEDAW/C/FJI/2-4

§  Fiji Government report to CERD, 2012, CERD/C/FJI/18-20