Recognising and celebrating the leadership of women and girls as vital first responders, rebuilders and peacebuilders in their communities is the focus of this year’s International Women’s Day held at the Civic Centre in Labasa.
In its 10th year, the annual event has been organised by the Labasa Women’s Forum in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation to connect, discuss and lobby government’s support for women. The event is the largest women’s gathering that takes place in the Northern Division and attracts close to 1,000 attendees.
Forum Coordinator Manjula Devi said “We know all too well that in times of crisis, women will often overlook their own safety to ensure the well-being of their families and communities. The hygiene packs we are providing have been tailored especially for the needs of rural women.”
The Forum distributed vegetable seeds and hygiene packs to 300 rural women.
She said many of the women that attend the Forum have never been given the opportunity to step out of their communities and to raise their voices about the challenges they face to policymakers especially during these increasingly difficult times. Their lives revolve around care duties and if they face violence in the home, they do not know who to turn to or how to access help.”
Chief Guest was the Fijian Assistant Minister Hon. Veena Bhatnagar who highlighted the critical role women have played in the fight against the pandemic and the string of natural disasters that affected Fijians.
“It goes without saying, that when a family is suffering, the burden to fix everything is the hardest felt by women, the mothers of the families. Their unpaid care work increases, their hard work to feed the family increases, their economic activities and participation is affected, the violence inflicted on them increases, she forgets herself and goes to any extent to make sure her family’s welfare is taken care of and that they are safe in challenging times like disasters and pandemics.”
“As a nation we can proudly boast that a woman led the way to managing the COVID19 and disaster situation in Fiji. I acknowledge Dr Aalisha Sahukhan, the Head of Health Protection at the Ministry of Health, the DISMAC director Ms. Vasiti Soko, the hundreds of nurses, doctors, police women, military women, and other women who have worked tirelessly for our country.” Hon. Bhatnagar said.
This year’s event received funding from the Australian Government through the Fiji Women’s Fund (the Fund). Also speaking at the event, the Fund’s Senior Program Manager Menka Goundan congratulated the Labasa Women’s Forum on being the first recipient of the Fund’s Movement-Building grants.
Movement Building grants were launched by the Fund in November 2020 to support activities and events that promote women’s rights, women’s leadership and decision making, eliminating violence against women and women’s coalitions. The grant is available twice a year for women, girls and gender non-conforming groups, networks and organisations to access.
“We see great value in resourcing women leaders to help them garner tools to adequately support women from their communities. We believe that women belong in all places where decisions are made. Women should be able to challenge and call out discrimination and inequality but also seek out and celebrate their successes. Women deserve a world free of violence, stigma and stereotypes.
She added that gender equality will only be achieved when women’s full and effective participation and leadership are recognised in public life and decision-making.
The Fiji Women’s Fund (the Fund) is an initiative of the Australian Government via the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women). The Fund has committed up to A$10.5 million from 2017 to 2022. It provides 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.
For more information please contact the Fund’s Communication Officer:
Erica Lee, on +679 331 4410 or +679 331 4033 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org