4th Fiji Consultation on Women's Participation and equal representation in Parliament:

Fiji Women call for democracy, human rights, social justice and gender equality

April 8th-10th, 2013

1. The 4th Fiji Women's Forum is deeply concerned with the disproportionate representation of women in parliament. Women make up 50% of Fiji's population and are leaders in every aspect of our society and yet, since independence, the percentage of women in parliament has never reflected this reality.

2. On the 8th-10th April 2013, one year after the inaugural Fiji Women's Forum, fifty-three women leaders representative of diverse constituencies from across Fiji and upholding the qualities of women's leadership, gathered for the fourth time, and were joined by 440 virtual viewers via live-streaming over the internet. The Fiji Women's Forum was also featured in a special community radio broadcast.

3. The women of the 4th Fiji Women's Forum gathered to create awareness on women's political participation in national democratization processes, identify feasible, realistic and strategic approaches to increase women's participation in all electoral processes and develop a collaborative approach amongst women sharing skills, resources and building greater solidarity.

4. The 4th Fiji Women's Forum acknowledges and builds on the Forum's substantive contributions to Fiji's democratization processes to date, which have included the mobilization and delivery of over 125 rights-based civic education campaigns and programmes, the production of democratic advocacy materials and the facilitation of over 650 individual and group submissions that contributed to over 7000 submissions received by the 2012 Constitutional Commission.

5. In light of these efforts and successes, the Fiji Women's Forum is deeply disappointed that the women's values and priorities which were reflected in our submissions to the People's Draft Constitution, 2012, was rejected resulting in the invisibility of women in the current Government Draft, 2013. This contravenes the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Fiji ratified in 1995.

6. The Fiji Women's Forum further condemns the State's decision to abandon the Constituent Assembly. The Women's Forum had concerns on legitimacy of the overall process but recognized the importance of including women's perspectives in a participatory, open, transparent and substantive debate on constitutional content.

7. The Forum heard from past Fijian women parliamentarians and election candidates who shared their experiences and expertise.  In light of these interactions, the Forum encourages aspiring women politicians to choose their political parties carefully by investigating party constitutions and manifestos, ensuring that both have women's rights and gender equality at their core. 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.

8. The Women's Forum acknowledges EMILY's List Australia, that has contributed information on their expertise in fundraising for women candidates. The Forum consequently emphasizes the importance of funding for women's participation in politics and therefore urges political parties to allocate sufficient funds to their female candidates and calls for the wider public to donate generously to their campaigns.

9. The Forum calls on the State to develop laws on the electoral process in consultation with the people of Fiji and to include the stipulation of a zipped closed list system (female and male candidates listed in alternating order) for political parties. This is critical to address the history of inequality and to ensure equitable numbers of women in local and national parliament, as part of Temporary Special Measures.

The Women's Forum will develop women in politics training programmes in the lead up to the upcoming Fiji elections and will support women politicians throughout the entire electoral cycle. We strongly endorse the mentoring of younger women and those new to politics. We therefore acknowledge International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics, for sharing their experiences around building the capacity of women in politics in Indonesia.

The Forum asserts the immediate need for voter and civic education and the need to utilize alternative media, including community radio, in building public awareness around active citizenship.

The 4th Fiji Women's Forum offers our strategies to all stakeholders to ensure that more women are elected into parliament in the upcoming elections.

We commit to work together in solidarity towards gender equality, participatory democracy and the meaningful participation of women in local and national decision-making.

For any queries, contact Sharon B Rolls on (679) 9244871.