Accounting for Women (Op-Ed for 2014 National Budget)

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02nd October, 2014

Women continue to struggle to break through the barriers of leadership and decision making especially in rural communities.

Sometimes a barrier is because they do not have access to basic services.

Sometimes it is simply because national policies including the national budget make them invisible despite the commitments to treaties and conventions such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

FemLINKPACIFIC’s most recent policy brief “What the Women Say: Communicating CEDAW and Human Security” highlights the realities of the feminization of the poverty and the interconnection between  Economic Security, Food (and nutrition) security, health, environment personal and political security are where women would like to see greater investment.

We are not the only ones highlighting this reality. Speak to anyone in our local community and you will hear about the increasing workloads of rural women who are taking on more intensive cash-earning work, in addition to household and caring work. This is affecting women’s health. Rural women are especially vulnerable.

With the Ministry of Finance convening a Special Budget Forum on 4th October we believe it is important that rural women’s economic security priorities are highlighted:


Who are these women?

FemLINKPACIFIC continues to work to bring rural women’s leadership into the national decision making spaces.

As of the end of August 2014 2911 women leaders had participated in our rural community media network activities.

In 2013 the total number of rural women leaders who had participated in our activities was 4482.

One rural woman who is a member of our network is Manjula Devi who is the President of the Korociriciri Mothers Club a confident public speaker, who has been developing her communication skills at local and community level.

Manjula and the 26 members of the club know all about budgets. In 2013 they rallied together to raise $345.

It may seem a small amount but it was a significant, transparent and participatory fundraising drive for women who meet every fortnight through small raffles, the sale of pot plants and catering at community weddings and gatherings.

Manjula is also the President of Child Care Protection of the Nausori Branch


So what is the role of our members of parliament?

In Fiji, the reality is that while there will be 8 female members of parliament, that only equates to 0.002% of the total number of registered female voters (290742).

313084 of registered female voters live in the Western and Northern Division so they will find it much harder to access parliamentarians due to the single constituency.

How will this transition to parliamentary democracy also pave the way for women’s leadership to be accounted for in the national budget well?

Manjula and women may not make it to national level pre budget forums or the parliamentary chambers but they are certainly banking on every single member of parliament being accountable to them so that women’s rights and economic security are not just reflected in the budget for the Department of Women but in all the government departments.

Meeting the goals of gender equality, advancing women’s human rights requires a whole-of-government approach.

A national budget allocation for women is more than just a social welfare project.

It requires the recognition that all women’s needs and concerns, and accounting for the disparities in income and quality of life.

It requires the recognition that rural women, the elderly, women with disabilities and women in marginalised communities are accounted for whether it is communications and infrastructure, economic policies and empowerment programmes, access to education and health services, peace and security.

After all when the Fiji Government ratified the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination (1995) it made a commitment to (Article 14. 1) take into account the particular problems faced by rural women and the significant roles which rural women play in the economic survival of their families, including their work in the non-monetized sectors of the economy, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the application of the provisions of this Convention to women in rural areas so that rural women will Article 14.2 (h) enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.

Yes, women require livelihood projects, improved roads, and access to water. But they also need the time and space to be able to prepare themselves to participate in political processes, not only in parliament but also in local level government and also in traditional or indigenous processes such as district and village level committees.

Only then can we ensure the 8 becomes 25 within the next four years!

[Source: FemLINK Paciific]

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