Tuesday, January 29, 2008



Women’s groups rebuff minister’s call

WOMEN’S groups have distanced themselves from a call by Interim Minister for Women, Doctor Jiko Luveni for all women to participate in the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) and its work to establish a People’s Charter.

In her opening address at a Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) workshop on Friday, Dr Luveni made a request for women to participate in the council.

Dr Luveni’s comments on the council, Charter and the need for women’s participation had not gone down well with women organisations.

The groups that have rejected the interim minister’s call include the largest indigenous women’s association, the Soqosoqo Vakamarama, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) and femLINK.

FWCC coordinator, Shamima Ali said Dr Luveni’s statement was contradictory to CEDAW, since the organisation always promoted human rights and democracy.

“This call by Doctor Luveni for women to support the Charter is not good because these people who are in the committee are not elected people,” she said.

Ali added that the ministry had no “business” in telling people and organisations what to do since she was an “unelected person.”

Soqosoqo Vakamarama secretary Adi Finau Tabakaucoro said Dr Luveni had no right to ask for the support of women’s organisation.

“If she wants us to agree she has to tell us what the Charter will bring to the women of this country,” she said.

Adi Finau added that Dr Luveni should first ensure that the Charter meant equal representation for women in parliament, municipal councils, government organisations and other national bodies.

“Dr Luveni should show us that women can also participate in the Charter, but from what we can see, only a few women are in the committee. How then does she expect us to support the Charter when the picture they are giving isn’t fair?” she added.

FemLink Pacific coordinator, Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls says the call by Dr Luveni is just “not as simple as taking up a seat.”

“The NCBBF need to consider whether this will be an opportunity to better define the road map by ensuring that women’s realities and perspectives are incorporated into what should be a transformative process and to ensure that there is compliance to gender equality commitments in the current Charter,” she said.

Bhagwan-Rolls added that from their own community outreach programmes, they had found that the women want to be better informed about the current process and also want to be heard.

She said the challenge “is to determine the most effective process of engagement to make a positive difference in all women in the country.”

In an effort to drum up women’s support, Dr Levuni told the workshop that the quickest way to move the country forward was through the Charter.

“The Charter is the fastest way to take this country forward to democratic elections through the involvement of everyone that is keen to have a role in nation building,” said Dr Luveni.

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