Fiji Young Women’s Forum Declaration

16th March 2014

Declaration by the Fiji Young Women’s Forum on Young Women’s Participation and Representation in Political Spaces.

PREAMBLE:

The Fiji Young Women’s’ Forum convened by Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA), Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni (ELFA), Young Women Producers and Broadcasters- FemlinkPacific, and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), brought together young women leaders and activists aged 18 – 30 years from Fiji over two national forums to discuss barriers and strategies to young women’s meaningful participation and representation in Fiji’s democratisation process.

We, young Fijian women leaders, including transwomen, young women with disabilities, young women of both religious and non-religious beliefs, young lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer and intersex women, aspiring young women politicians, young women sex workers, rural young women, young women mental health consumers and young women in all our diversities, affirm our power as implementers and contributors of positive change, decision makers, partners and leaders of today and the future. Our strength is in our numbers and in our diversity. [1]

The forum builds on the initial Fiji Young Women’s Forum of 2013 and the rich tradition of activism and feminism by Fijian women throughout our national herstory[2] and is committed to representing young women throughout the country. We recognise the work of the many women who have gone before us and the gains that they have made for young women today. We acknowledge and respect the rich herstory of women’s participation in political spaces including social movements and we call for more recognition of this hard fraught journey.

This declaration is based on young women’s lived realities and is drafted using feminist perspectives[3].

Following the 2nd FYWF co-convened on 14th – 16th March 2014, the Young Women’s Declaration is a political document for the continuous advancement of Young Women’s representation, interests and needs. It sets out the critical issues faced by Fiji Young Women, and demands that political leaders address them throughout their manifestos and campaigns in local and national elections as well as post elections.

We the young women of Fiji are concerned about the lack of inclusion of Young Women’s voices, interests and needs in decision making spaces.

We hereby adopt this Young Women’s Declaration as an affirmation of our commitment to encouraging and supporting Young Women’s participation in Fiji’s local and national elections.

We call upon the government and its institutions, political parties and candidates, and civil society to also commit to adopting and implementing the demands of this Declaration.

 

We call for immediate action to the following demands:

1.     YOUNG WOMEN’S ACTIVE, MEANINGFUL, CIVIL AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

The Fiji Young Women’s Forum urges local and national governments, political parties and candidates, private and public sectors to implement Temporary Special Measures to increase young women’s representation and participation in decision making. This will enable our State to comply with CEDAW which Fiji ratified in 1995, and further increase and enhance the ability of Young Women to actively participate in all decisions that affect our lives. The Forum further asserts that transformative change is not just about the policies of parties but also party structures that are inclusive and human rights based.

Fiji Young Women demand that our leaders consult and include Young Women with disabilities when developing political manifestos that should be easily accessed in every way and that represent the interests, concerns and needs of persons with disabilities. It is important to have inclusive and accessible consultations when drafting laws that affect Young Women’s abilities to exercise their civic rights. These laws must be accessible by women of all diversities.

Fiji Young Women demand of our leaders to ensure the promotion of substantive equality that protects the rights, interests and needs of all Young Women, regardless of sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions. Political parties and candidates are to assert their positions on protecting the rights and interests of LGBTQI Young Women.  We strongly insist these leaders to utilise the internationally recognized Yogyokarta Principles[4] in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that commits leaders to the needs and interests of Young Women.

2.     YOUNG WOMEN’S ACCESS to SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS

The Young Women’s Forum affirms that Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights must be realised. We stress that bodily integrity and autonomy is at the core of all work on SRHR, we call for comprehensive sexual education, information, services and commodities that are available to everyone including members of the LGBTQI community and persons with disabilities.

Young women should have full ownership of our own bodies and sexual health, and are entitled to reproductive health rights and be free from all kinds of exploitation including forced commercial sexual exploitation.

The State, political parties and candidates must recognize alternative occupations such as sex work. Young Women call upon our leaders to commit to the promotion of enabling and safe environments in line with the Pataya Declaration.[5] Young Women demand that sex workers have the same rights as all Young Women.

3.     YOUNG WOMEN ENSURE ACCOUNTABILITY and TRANSPARENCY

The Fiji Young Women’s Forum affirms that Democracy, the Rule of Law and the full enjoyment of one’s Human Rights are closely linked. We call upon the State, Political Parties and Candidates to adhere to the principles of democracy including the separation of powers between the executive, the judiciary and the legislative.  

Young Women demand that religion and state must remain separate.

The Fiji Young Women’s Forum is deeply disappointed that young women and the citizens of Fiji were not inclusively consulted in the development of the States’ budget and the abolishment of the Public Accounts Committee. Young women mandate that our leaders are obligated and accountable to ensure gender equality, transparency and human rights are translated into legislation, policy and budget allocations through inclusive consultations and which become the norms and standards that guide the principles of our society.

The forum calls for the reinstatement of the People’s Constitution which was drafted by the Constitutional Commissioners headed by Professor Yash Ghai with over 7000 submissions including groups and individual submissions from all over Fiji.

We highlight the importance of the role of the media in a sustainable democracy and call on political leaders to commit to the principles of Free media with a strong emphasis on balanced reporting and responsible journalism.

4.     EDUCATION

Young Women demand a commitment to the review of the Fiji education system with particular emphasis on accessibility to the Girl Child and Young Women, regardless of disability, sexual orientation, identities and expressions. The State must provide safe counselling services by professionals in school systems to address issues of all forms of bullying and violence at homes and in schools. 

The forum calls for affirmation action programs directed at the enhancement of Young Women’s assistance in formal and informal education, and other opportunities that enhance Young Women development.

Young Women are appalled at the rising number of cases of sexual exploitation of young girls and women. The Young Women forum calls upon the State to fully endorse the current Family Life Education policy without limitations and in compliance with the CRC which Fiji ratified in 1993 where the interests of the child is paramount. We demand that the education system be reviewed to include age appropriate[6] comprehensive, compulsory sex education for students and educators at early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary levels to prevent and highlight sexual exploitation. The curriculum needs to be developed in conjunction with the relevant stakeholders and reviewed periodically.

Together with effective policing, educators and leaders have the ability to eradicate sexual exploitation.

Schools are powerful social and cultural institutions in constructing gender identity as they have a major influence on girls and boys and how they see themselves and each other. The formal and informal curriculums employed in schools shape children’s understandings about gender and the performance of gendered identity. We demand the promotion of high-quality gender identity and relations teaching and learning at all educational levels including early years settings (childcare and kindergartens).

5.     SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

We are currently living in a time of escalated social, economic, and environmental crisis. We urgently seek full and decent employment and economic empowerment for all young Fijian women. We call for the meaningful participation of young women in the design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of development goals, policies and indicators at all levels.

Young People including Young Women make up approximately 47% of Fiji’s voting population. This means that a critical mass of the voting population holds the potential to decide the leadership of this country. Young Women want concrete strategies from political parties & candidates on how they will address the rising levels of unemployment. Leaders must identify best practices of young women employment programmes as practices vary depending on the target population. Assisting these are feasibility studies on the creation of new industries, suitable for Fiji’s young women population, which must be undertaken in consultation with a representative sample of young women.

Young Women demand the promotion of young women to pursue education and employment in male dominated fields. The State must commit to the advancement of Young Women in self-employment initiatives and small businesses by providing necessary support and services including financial assistance, training and development, and access to markets, regardless of Young Women’s status, location, and social standing.

The young women’s forum is deeply concerned with the rapid expansion of the extractive industry in Fiji. We call on our leaders to adopt sustainable development options that do not further exacerbate widespread environmental degradation as this further commodifies and compounds the burden on young women, social relationships, communities and societies at large, increasing the labour required to meet basic needs.

6.     YOUNG WOMEN in PEACE and SECURITY

Young Women’s Human Security[7] must be placed at the forefront by political parties and candidates. Putting Young Women’s security first ensures gender inclusive development plans and processes from the local to the global level. It means connecting Peace and Development, and further enhances the State and its leaders along the principles of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 titled Women, Peace and Security[8].

We acknowledge and recognise the role of women including, young women, rural women, women peace builders, human rights defenders, in conflict prevention and peace building. We call on the state, the security sector, political parties and candidates to acknowledge the capacity of women and Young Women and their ability to contribute to decision making. There is a need to take a peace building, inclusive, conflict preventive approach to development. We call for the protection of women Human Rights defenders.

7.     YOUNG WOMEN FOR JUSTICE

In solidarity with the women’s movement, the FYWF urges the State to reconsider its decision to relocate the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Family Law Court and the Juvenile Court to Veiuto where the Parliamentary complex is currently located. The proposed move will unfairly shift the burden of accessing the justice system to the people, and is not an incentive for young women to seek redress through the Courts.

CONCLUDING REMARKS:

We the Young Women of Fiji, call on the State’s alignment to principles and processes of Free and Fair Elections, such as the levelling of the current unequal playing field and that rules and regulations are not oppressive to political parties and independent candidates. We demand that the elections process is transparent and that citizens, candidates and all other stakeholders are informed in a timely manner regarding electoral developments and law.

To facilitate our return to democracy, Fiji Young Women call for the removal of oppressive laws and decrees. We note the invisibility of women in the media as powerful agents of change and call for balanced and accurate reporting and documenting of women free from negative stereotypical biases. We note the role of community media and alternative media in facilitating the flow of information, and express the need for the respect for media freedom.

We commit to work together in solidarity towards gender equality, participatory democracy, the rule of law and the meaningful participation of young women in local, national, regional and global decision making bodies.

 

For more information contact Tavai Bale: 9990869



[1] Diversity – including young women who are single mothers, mothers, women from different ethnic backgrounds, young women in de-facto relationships, young women living with and affected by HIV.

[2]  Herstory – account, realties and experiences from a female or specifically a feminist perspective.

[3] Perspectives that encompasses women’s human rights. Feminist theory is the study of gender, patriarchy and oppression of the woman.

[4] International application of the international human rights law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI).

[5] Represents a unified rights based approach to the reduction of HIV, violence and discrimination amongst sex workers in the Asia Pacific region.

[6] The reference to “age appropriate” is deemed to mean education that is “consistent with the evolving capacities of [children], adolescents and young people to be able to make responsible and informed decisions and exercise  their right to control all aspects of their sexuality, protect themselves from [sexual exploitation] and unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, to promote values of tolerance, mutual respect and non violence in relationships, and to plan their lives, while recognizing the role and responsibilities of parents, as well as of teachers and peer educators, to support them in doing so.” http://www.un-ngls.org/IMG/pdf/Analysis_of_ESCAP_6th_APPC_by_DAWN_RESURJ_and_IWHC.pdf

[7] Human security – challenging the traditional notion of national security by arguing that the proper referent for security is the individual and not the state (women constitute half of the population making women security is important.

[8] UNSCR 1325 – first ever resolution passed that recognised the role of women in conflict prevention and peace building. Ensures that women and young women are involved at all levels of decision making; local, national, regional and international levels.