Gender Equality: The very core of our grants for women

 

By Menka Goundan and Erica Lee

Excited, elated, and proud, that’s how we’re feeling this month with the launch of our 2020-2021 Grant Call.

This latest Call for Expressions of Interest is a special one for the Fund because it marks another milestone in the transition of the Fiji Women’s Fund into an independent entity.

Apart from changes to the application processes, timeline and project categorisation, this year our grants now include funding options for crisis management and risk reduction for diverse women in Fiji.  Given the global pandemic and the increasing frequency and intensity of cyclones in the Pacific, these grants are both timely and much needed.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) reports that it is often assumed that all members of a population experience the impact of disasters in the same way. However, natural disasters are not neutral: They affect women, men, girls, and boys differently due to gender inequalities caused by socioeconomic conditions, cultural beliefs, and traditional practices which have repeatedly put females at a disadvantage. “Gender” refers to the socio-cultural roles, norms, and values associated with being a man or a woman. These roles, norms, and values determine how women and men prepare for, react to, and recover from disasters, and they often cause unequal distribution of power, economic opportunities, and sense of agency.[1]

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are the core objectives of the Fund.  When applying for one of our three grants (Sustainability Grants, Movement Building Grants and Resilience Grants) women’s groups, networks and organisations must incorporate these core objectives along with ensuring that they are building agency for their members and showing the Fund that they will work toward transformative change.  We also specifically call for applications that focus on the rights of diverse women and girls.

We place emphasis on women’s own understanding of empowerment and the way that they observe their relationships with others. Beginning with the individual change, we believe that the shifting of power relations is ultimately what is needed to change society towards gender equality and less discrimination and violence.[2]

Structural and social changes are necessary for gender equality requires that everyone in society, including men and boys, change their behaviours and attitudes. We believe that working with men, women, girls and boys leads to the most transformational and sustainable changes. Engaging men and boys in gender equality programming ensure that everyone is making necessary changes and is involved in the process of forming new, more justifiably positive social structures.

Our experience working with 44 initiatives, many of them rural and community-based, is that transformative change is possible.  Before sharing their amazing work, we also want to highlight why gender equality and women’s empowerment is so important to the Fund.

 

Why are we funding gender equality?

Because the reality is that we live in an unequal world where diverse women and girls in Fiji and around the world continue to experience unequal access to rights. Fiji’s rates of violence against women are among the highest in the world. Let’s look at this issue using some of the alarming statistics on gender equality in Fiji:

  • Almost 2 out of 3 women aged 18-64 in Fiji have experienced physical or sexual violence from their intimate partner – almost twice the global average of violence[3]
  • 64% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence from their intimate partner [4]
  • 42% of Fiji boards have no women at all, 26% have less than one-third female participation and women comprise only 21% of all board members[5]
  • Women and girls living with a disability are more likely to experience sexual or physical violence than those without disabilities[6]
  • Women and girls are severely affected by extreme weather events, increasing economic insecurity and physical vulnerability[7]
  • Lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people face criminalising laws and threats to their dignity from institutions and individuals[8]

 

How are our grantee partners incorporating gender equality into their programming?

To reduce violence against women and girls in communities, the Anglican Church’s House of Sarah uses the SASA approach which includes male community advocates who through faith-based principles work on changing individuals’ attitudes, community norms and structures, by supporting entire communities through a phased process of change.  The project has brought about transformative change in peri-urban settlements which has influenced the way people behave.

In terms of progressing women’s leadership, the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement through the Emerging Leaders Forum (ELF) 7 program is working with a cohort of 16 young women. ELF is a transformative series of workshops on key topics such as identity, gender, feminism, human rights, leadership and power, ending violence against women and girls, sexual and reproductive health and rights, economic empowerment, gender and faith, ecological and climate justice and the media.

We also embarked on an inspiring journey working with the Soqosoqo Vakamarama Kadavu and Waisomo Women’s Club both of whom are based in Kadavu and are implementing women’s economic empowerment projects alongside workshops focused on developing their leadership and enhancing agency (their ability to confidently participate and make choices that concern them such as their participation in district meetings).

Similarly, our funding to the Naitasiri Women in Dairy Group is unique as it breaks barriers for women in rural remote areas of Naitasiri who are involved in a male dominated dairy industry. Changes in attitudes and behaviours towards transformative changes have been noted both in the industry and their own traditionally patriarchal community. They have employed traditional practices such as solesolevaki (sharing workload) to help each other with their household duties and have included their husbands and sons in many of their income-generating activities which have led to them gaining control over their household income. These have been seen in their ability to make decisions on how money is being spent.

To build resilience and risk mitigation especially in times of disaster, we have been working with multiple partners such as Rise Beyond the Reef, Talanoa Treks, Pacific Rainbow Advocacy Network, Adventist Development Relief Agency Fiji and the Women Entrepreneurs Business Council.  These on-going projects are not only focused on changing toxic gender norms but have also taken on a new emphasis on assisting their members and constituents to withstand, recover and rebuild quickly following a disaster.  Medical Services Pacific and Transcend Oceania are also supporting recovery efforts through trauma counselling.  These organisations also provide trauma counselling for survivors of physical/sexual violence to assist them in the healing process.

How to apply for our 2020-2021 grants?

After reading about the work of some of our grantee partners, we hope we have not discouraged you from applying.  The truth is, without realising it, many women’s groups, networks and organisations in Fiji are already working towards gender equality in their own ways and approaches.  We encourage you to get in touch with us and to explore how we can support your organisation’s projects working towards gender equality, women’s empowerment and improving the lives of women and girls in Fiji.

Our grants are open from 14th November 2020 to 3rd January 2021. For further information please look at the visit our website for more information:  https://fijiwomensfund.org/grants/

 

[1] https://www.gfdrr.org/sites/default/files/publication/gender-equality-disaster-recovery.PDF

[2] Batliwala:2014, p.41

[3] FWCC, (2013), Somebody’s Life, Everybody’s Business! National Research on Women’s Health and Life Experiences in Fiji (2010/2011): A survey exploring the prevalence, incidence and attitudes to intimate partner violence in Fiji.

[4] Ibid

[5] Gender Equality, Diversity& Inclusion – Leadership in Fiji Government -controlled Boards – http://www.fwrm.org.fj/images//fwrm2017/PDFs/research/FWRM_Gender_Diversity_Incl_GoF_Boards-Final_.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1rBLIKWOYaIUNVKzoOwCBi5USUYZsMHkNjOqouXME7HiDRKvETelCSmL4

[6] Where is the money for women and girls in the Pacific? Mapping funding gap, opportunities and gaps – A scopying study – https://fijiwomensfund.org/where_is_the_money/

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

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