May 03 2006

"Politics is not just about politicians and parties"

JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY:

femLINKPACIFIC

Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC)

Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM)

Women's Action for Change (WAC)


Major women's organisations in Fiji are calling on political parties to realise that politics is not just about politicians.

fem'LINKPACIFIC, the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, the Fiji Women's Rights Movement and Women's Action for Change are concerned that women's views are not being adequately reflected in party campaigns.

"It is about every member of the community having their views heard and reflected in public spaces by leaders, and this includes women and children's views," said WAC Coordinator Noelene Nabulivou.

"Civil society organisations are a legitimate part of any democracy.  When women tell us that they do not feel included in the process, then it is our responsibility to raise the issue. We urge the political parties to respond positively to our concerns, not to attack us for advocating for the women and children in Fiji, who feel unheard by their leaders," she said.

Women's organisations were yesterday criticised by political parties for pointing out the invisibility of women in the 2006 general elections.

"Political parties may include women's issues in their manifestos or in campaign statements, but that is not the same as advocating around women's concerns and treating these as core national development issues,"
said FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali.

"Last night at the nationally televised 'Leaders Forum' on Fiji One there were seven male leaders speaking, a male interviewer, and no questions taken from the audience. None of the moderator questions were about violence against women and the word 'woman' was only spoken once, by Pramod Rae, during the entire evening," she said.

Ali added that physical and sexual violence against women has been experienced by 66% of women in Fiji, and the rates of reported sexual assaults have increased when comparing the same six month period of January-June 2004 to 2005.

"This is a national crisis. This should be a primary election issue, with discussion and dialogue on how to deal with this terrible social injustice against so many women and children," Ali said.

Other issues like a gender-responsive budget, increasing women's participation at the national decision making level, the gender dimensions of HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and the challenges confronting women living with disabilities should also be at the core of any development strategy.

"People are calling for a caring and compassionate government that will promote gender equality and peace, and political leaders who will debate issues of national interest rather than espouse negative and racist remarks especially in Parliament,"
said femLINKPACIFIC Coordinator Sharon Bhagwan Rolls.

"We urge all candidates as well as the media to consider carefully the style and choice of words as you campaign - please do not incite anger and hatred, we all know our country does not need this and it further marginalizes women from actively engaging in the political process."

Women's organisations have been closely following the political campaigns and process, including through a Women Ask survey in which political parties outlined their strategies to address key women's concerns.

"The Women Ask is the only comprehensive political party survey that examines the many areas that impact upon women and their families," said FWRM Executive Director, Virisila Buadromo. "I urge women to read the results in this Saturday's newspapers, and use the information when they cast their votes."

femLINKPACIFIC, FWCC, FWRM and WAC urgently call on political parties and the media to stop ignoring women.  Tell the women of Fiji how you will address our core concerns of violence against women, enabling legislation for women, and women and decision-making.

For more information contact:

Femlink Coordinator Pacific- Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls        330 7207

FWCC Director - Shamima Ali, Edwina Kotoisuva             3313 300

FWRM Executive Director -  Virisila Buadromo                 924 9906

WAC Coordinators - Noelene Nabulivou, Peni Moore       331 4363

ENDS