Anyone who has undergone any form of change knows from experience how it can unleash a flood of emotions. Emotions that range from happiness and anxiety to excitement.
The Fiji Women’s Fund (the Fund) is going through a transition to becoming an independent entity. When I first joined the Fund, I was often asked what this meant. As a Fund, it means that we are preparing to be registered as a legal entity under Fiji’s Charitable Trust Act.
Currently, the Fund is set up as an initiative of the Australian Government’s gender equality program Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development and managed by Australian contract manager, Cardno. As an independent entity, the Fund will continue to mobilise financial and non-financial resources carrying forward its legacy as the resourcing arm of the women’s movement in Fiji, but will now take the lead in managing its own affairs from governance structure, operations, and program implementation.
The more I engage in the Fund’s transition, the more it becomes a matter of the heart, mind, body and soul.
Coming from the feminist women’s movement in Fiji has greatly shaped my own heart, mind, body and soul. From day one, I have been motivated to ensure that the Fund engages with the broader and diverse women’s movement in Fiji and with global women’s funds. We have been intentional in creating spaces for dialogue that bring out so many voices: diverse voices that have contributed towards our logo and branding conceptualisation, the development to the Fund’s various strategies including Communications, Capacity Development, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion and Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning and to the policies that govern the way we work. The Fund has been deliberate in consulting and re-assessing its own work to consider the evolving needs of the women’s movement.
Now in our third year of existence, a lot of our experiences have been greatly guided by our grantee partners, stakeholders and global women’s funds. In the first two years, we focused on setting up our internal processes, grants mechanism and capacity development support. In our third year, our first step towards localisation is to develop our Trust Deed which will be the legal document that we will submit to the Registrar’s Office. A Trust Deed is a legal document that outlines the mission and purpose of an entity, the make-up of governance structures such as the composition of trustees and governance board. The powers and duties, terms and meeting procedures of the Fund.
With the support of Netherlands-based Mama Cash’s Solidarity Fund, we have begun consultations with a range of stakeholders, our Steering and Grants Committee, the Fund Team and our grantee partners to seek their input into what the Fund’s Trust Deed would contain. Even though many see the Trust Deed as a legal document, I know from my own experience and having worked at the Fund for the last three years that ownership is critical. Ownership of a national women’s fund that will be formally registered. And because of this, we have invested time and energy to get input from stakeholders.
In September, the Fund’s Steering Committee will be deliberating on the Trust Deed and the identification of Trustees and Governance Board. After the Trust Deed application is formally submitted and approved, the Fund will begin its handover process. The handover will occur with the Fund’s managing contractor, Cardno which looks more at the Fund’s operations, finance and human resources enabling the Fund to ensure independent management and operations post July 2022.
Transitions are daunting and yet exciting at the same time. Sometimes, we get caught up with all the minor and major details of the transition and sometimes forget to pay attention to the people who would be involved in the transition. Any group, network or organisation is made up of people. They are the beings that give breath to the vision and goal of the organisation. Without the power of people, movements are not possible.
As we move forward towards transition, I am committed to investing my heart, body, mind and soul to walk and work alongside my team members, Committee members and our myriad partners. We are all interconnected and we have a shared interest in ensuring the Fund’s sustainability and its ability to thrive as the only national women’s fund in the Pacific.
With change come opportunities. And I am looking forward to the new opportunities that will come to the Fund.
The Fiji Women’s Fund was borne out of a civil society analysis undertaken in 2015 by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). A key recommendation from the civil society analysis was for DFAT to investigate the feasibility of establishing a national women’s fund to cater to the diverse needs of rural and remote women’s groups, networks and organisations who were working towards gender equality. Later in 2015, DFAT hired a three-member team to design the concept of the Fiji Women’s Fund.
In 2016, DFAT approved the design and made a commitment of AUD10.5 million from July 2017 to June 2022 to the Fiji Women’s Fund to provide direct funding and capacity development support to women’s groups, organisations and networks in Fiji to expand and enhance their work on women’s empowerment and gender equality. From 2017, key appointments of the Steering Committee, Grants Committee and Fund Team took place.
About the Author
Michelle Reddy is a Pacific women’s rights feminist activist. For over 10 years, she has worked in the area of gender equality and human rights in Fiji and the Pacific. Having worked in previous leadership positions at the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding and Leadership FIJI and Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development, Michelle now leads one of the very few women’s funds in the Pacific region: Fiji Women’s Fund.