Honouring the women in our eco-system

Mural of the mangrove ecosystem – a depiction of the women who have contributed to the Fund’s journey. Illustration by Vidushi Yadav.

By Michelle Reddy and Georgina Naigulevu

We have been agents of change since our inception in May 2017, influencing the flow of resources to diverse women, girls and gender non-conforming people in Fiji.

The set up of the Fund – from our grants mechanism, human resources, operations and finance and key strategies such as our Capacity Development, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Plan – has been heavily guided by the combined experience, skills, and knowledge of our Steering Committee over the past four years. This group of nine women included Leaine Robinson, Angeline Fatiaki, Joanna Houghton, Christina Munzer, the late Archana Mani, Sarah Boxall, Litia Naigulevu Ashley, Mere Roden, Raijeli Mawa, Aradhna Sharma, Nalini Singh, and Tupou Vere.

Together, this Committee oversaw the Fund’s first 14 grants to women’s groups, networks and organisations.  They were also instrumental in implementing a policy to dedicate a portion of the Fund’s budget to work specifically with disabled people’s organisations and groups that work exclusively with people with disabilities.

Since then, new members have joined our Steering Committee which was later called the Transitional Steering Committee (TSC). Joining us were Rochelle White, Emily Elliot, Jane Kierath, Selai Korovusere, Mareta Salacakau Fong, Cathy Wong, Leonie Whyte, Dr. Litea Meo-Sewabu, Nalini Singh and Georgina Naigulevu.  The TSC has been the guiding star in our journey to localisation. They have helped us through a mid-term review, our first Strategic Plan and have cheered us on and pushed us forward when we hit any hurdles.  In our current context, weathering two cyclones (TC Harold and TC Yasa) and the ongoing pandemic, their insight, input and tough love have been truly appreciated.

In July this year, we paid homage to and farewelled our TSC whose key role from mid-2020 till July 2021 was to pave the pathway for a registered national women’s fund under Fiji’s Charitable Trust Act. More about this will come in our next blog.

To show our appreciation for the TSC, we commissioned a mural by Indian feminist illustrator Vidushi Yadav to visualise our mission.  We believe the remarkable traits of a mangrove ecosystem are the best representation of our mission. A common sight in Fiji and the Pacific, the mangrove is one of the most complex and vital ecosystems. A protector of coasts against rising tide swells and erosion, mangroves are a source of sustenance and resilience for both marine and human life. The mural is our visual interpretation of our work in supporting feminist and women’s rights organisations to realise women’s human rights. In our new office space, the mural will be featured prominently reminding us of the contributions of pioneering women who steered the journey of the Fund.

We are also thankful for the insights provided by Emily Elliot, Leaine Robinson, Nalini Singh, Mareta Salacakau Fong, the late Archana Mani, Tara Chetty, Sala Tupou Tamani, Sainimili Tawake and Susan Naidu who made up our Grants Committee over the past four years. Their contribution to the Fund is evident in the breadth and reach of the Fund’s grants to rural and remote women and feminist groups from Kadavu all the way to Udu Point in Vanua Levu. Through the Fund, women from Rotuma and Kioa who are culturally distinct from dominant ethnic groups in Fiji received grants for the first time. Under their guidance, the Grants Committee revitalised our grants mechanism and introduced core grants – namely the Sustainability, Movement Building and Resilience Grants.  Since inception, the Fund has been able to provide 50 grants, of which 10 were Resilience Grants responding to the crises mentioned above.

Our eco-system has faced many storms, continues to battle the climate crisis and resurgence of a pandemic but despite that, it has remained resilient.

To the wonderful women of our ecosystem, we want to say Vinaka Vakalevu, you have deeply enriched our ecosystem and we are forever grateful for your contributions. You will remain a key part of our “herstory” of the Fiji Women’s Fund and now Women’s Fund Fiji, the first national women’s fund in Fiji and the Pacific.

You have been and will continue to be part of our feminist ecosystem of influencing the flow of resources in Fiji and the Pacific.

    

About the Authors

Michelle Reddy is a Pacific queer feminist and women’s rights activist who has worked in the women’s movement for 15 years. Michelle currently serves as an advisory member for the Pacific Feminist Fund, Equality Fund’s Catalyse Program and United Nations Pacific Insurance and Climate Adaptation Programme under the UN Capital Development Fund. She is also a Co-Coordinator of the Prospera Asia & Pacific Chapter of Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds. A lover of sarees, snail mail and most recently gardening, Michelle is a strong believer in collective well-being and self-care.

Georgina Naigulevu is the Chair of the Fiji Women’s Fund. She currently serves as the Senior Manager Applications, Projects and Innovations – HFC Bank. Georgina has over 11 years of software development experience in the ICT field across multiple industries and is a Senior Manager at the HFC bank where she oversees Applications, Projects, and Innovation. Putting her ICT knowledge and skills to use, Georgina co-founded the Mobile Me Map-a-thon – a community project in partnership with the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation that locates facilities on the road, pavements and footpath within pilot sites in Suva accessible for persons with disabilities.  Georgina currently holds membership in the Pacific Connect Community for International Centre for Democratic partnerships, Fiji Institute of Banks, Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society and Innovation for Change – Pacific Hub.

 

 

 

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