Fiji Government commits to supporting women for 2014 Parliament

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26 April 2012

Fiji says it wants more women in decision making bodies and particularly the new government to be elected in 2014.  The Minister for Women in the interim government, Dr Jiko Luveni says her department is working to identify potential women who may want to stand for the next elections and will provide leadership training to any potential women candidates. Dr Luveni says women make up 49 percent of the voting population and without them Fiji won't be able to achieve real development.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Dr Jiko Luveni, Minister for Women, Fiji

LUVENI: Right now we are in contact with our provincial officers and our other officers at divisional level to identify women that have been proving themselves and making themselves visible in their own divisions. And they would be the potential candidates for the next elections so that we can have a network of these leaders and be able to work on them building their skills, preparing for the election.

 COUTTS: But how do you go about doing that? Are you running awareness campaigns or are you just calling for women who have certain qualifications like they've been in leadership roles or in some role in some way as leaders in the community or in local government or community government?

 LUVENI: Yes we've been having radio sessions inviting interesting women. We have a very strong network of women NGOs throughout the country, in fact we are in contact with more than 800 women NGOs throughout the country. And through them we are encouraging them to identify women that could come on board in this particular project, the leadership training project that is being supported by UN women, so that we can firstly provide them with opportunities to show themselves out in their own communities as would be leaders, and then to train them in leadership skills as well as train them in preparations for the campaign for the next elections.

 COUTTS: There has been a call by one of Fiji's NGOs to have 50 per cent of the new parliament made up of women. How likely is that do you think?

 LUVENI: I reckon that is high, but if we do get 50 per cent that's a bonus to us women. But based on the Beijing platform of action and our women's plan of action, and also the government's framework for change, our target is 30 per cent, to increase from 12 to 13 per cent previously, and take it up to 30 per cent. But if we do achieve more than 30 per cent, that is a bonus.

 COUTTS: Alright and are women coming on board or are they still a little nervous about thinking of themselves as leaders at the top echelon when parliament resumes in 2014?

 LUVENI: They are coming on board, we have NGOs that are already conducting awareness campaigns, also training in the constitutional process. And the women right now, there's been a very good strong movement of women's work and women's organisations and networking so that they, particularly in the rural areas they have faith, now have faith in themselves to come forward to also support the women's efforts to be in decision-making bodies. In the last two years we've had more than 500 women that for the first time are members of hospital boards, they are members of village development committees, and they are also represented in the provincial committes, and that is a stepping stone towards gaining positions in higher decision-making levels and members of parliament.

 COUTTS: Well talking about rural and urban women making up an equal representation I'm guessing, but I'm just wonder with the pressures that the women in the rural areas are experiencing, particularly in the west at the moment with a succession of floods and sugar cane crops and just general poverty altogether, have women got enough on their plate and their minds at this stage not to be able to take on these leadership roles?

LUVENI: Yes there's a lot of burden on themselves in trying to in the aftermath of the floods, I was there last week on Thursday and Friday and I met up with a lot of women in the Ba area, also in the Tavua area those that were affected with the floods. They seemed to have bounced back very quickly. We've had a succession of floods in the west and I reckon they have managed to develop the coping skills to be able to cope with these disasters. Although this recent one has been really disastrous for them, but they are learning fast and they are learning how to cope with it and they are getting to normalcy very, very quickly with the help of our government committees.

COUTTS: Now other countries have looked at positive discrimination. Certainly PNG has had its issues in trying to get that for women there. Is Fiji considering that?

LUVENI: Yes this temporary special measure that has been mooted by the UN, but I reckon Fiji, the Fiji society in general is not stacked against women and there really is no overt discrimination against us. So that if we prove ourselves, we prove our worth to the voters they will vote for us. So that I do think we go into that, to me it's an extreme to have special seats reserved for women. I have spoken with a lot of women, the educated retired women out there in rural areas, and what they see is they would like to go into parliament because they were voted into parliament and not because they're women. So this has been the trend in the thinking of our women. And well it really depends because the constitutional process draft will go right back to the community, to the women and they will express their views in that process.

COUTTS: Are many women showing interest as yet, I know it's early days but are many stepping up and saying yes, I would like to throw my hat into the ring?

LUVENI: Well for us I think because the 2014 election is still in 2014, and we are only just beginning the process of the constitutional process and electoral process, they're not really coming up boldly to tell us that they are interested. But I know that come the time when we really address specifically that they should express their interest on this, they will come up, but there are some women that have already indicated their interest.

[Radio Australia

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