The Fiji government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1995. Since ratification FWRM has been the NGO secretariat of the compilation of the shadow report on the implementation of CEDAW in Fiji.
FWRM (CEDAW NGO Coalition secretariat) together with the CEDAW NGO/ CSO Working Group spearheaded the compilation and the presentation of two consecutive parallel reports, the first was presented to the UN CEDAW Committee in February 2002 and the second was presented to the UN CEDAW Committee in July 2010 in New York.
The CEDAW NGO/ CSO Working Group consists of: Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), femLINK Pacific and Citizens' Constitutional Forum (CCF).
FWRM aims to coordinate a delegation to present a shadow report before the UNCEDAW Committee alongside Fiji’s next State submission. The monitoring and implementation of CEDAW has also been part of FWRM’s core work since its ratification.
FWRM’s work in the area of employment reform as it relates to advancing women’s rights began in the late 1990s under its Women’s Employment and Economic Rights Project. The goal was to redress the social and economic disadvantaged women in the wake of labour reforms occurring in Fiji at the time.
The Employment Relations Act introduced in Parliament in 2006 incorporates 4 specific provisions concerning maternity protection, equal employment opportunities, equal pay for work of equal value and the penalizing of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Women make up 52% of the labour force in Fiji. Women have particular vulnerabilities and any regulatory framework must address the vulnerabilities women face.
As such FWRM, believes that along with institutional reforms, there needs to be accompanied political will within workplaces in addressing attitudinal changes for progressive realization of women’s rights in Fiji.
One of FWRM’s biggest accomplishments has been leading the coalition behind the successful lobby for Fiji’s Family Law Act (FLA) 2003. The FLA marked ground breaking legislative reform in the Pacific, with attention to compliance with CEDAW.
Since 2004, there have been key policy and legislative changes in Fiji which promote women’s rights or criminalise domestic violence. These include: Fiji Police Force No Drop Policy; abolishment of the Law of Corroboration in Sexual Offence, review of the Penal Code, Sentencing Act and Criminal Procedure Code, Domestic Violence Act, Criminal Procedure Code Act, Crimes Act, Child Welfare Act, Family Law Act Amendment Act recognising de facto (opposite sex only) relationship.
Whilst equality between men and women is guaranteed in the Constitution, inadequate laws and loopholes in legislative frameworks, poor enforcement and vast implementation gaps make these constitutional guarantees hollow promises, having little impact on the day to day lives of women.
There are also marginalized groups of women such as young women, lesbians, bisexual and transwomen, trans-masculine and non gender-conforming people, for whom justice is undeliverable or severely constrained because of criminalization and/or social stigma and sexual and gender based violence.
Fiji has been caught in a cycle of conflict for the past 25 years. Marginalized groups face greater exclusion from decision-making processes, with associated disillusionment and lack of faith in democratic processes. Within Fiji society, from the national political to the local community level, there is a general lack of understanding of what citizenship and democracy mean, and a lack of capacity for inclusive dialogue on these issues.
Women, particularly those from marginalized groups, such as Fijian women of Indian descent and young women, bear the disproportionate burden of the socio-economic environment; yet have the least access to decision-making.
FWRM has worked in the promotion of increased participation of women in politics at all levels. The movement has hosted civic education programmes from community to academia level during the Constitution making process of 2012- 2013, the promotion of voting mechanisms during the registration and campaign of 2014 General Elections and now through increasing women’s voices in democratic and consultative spaces through submissions to increase greater constitutional accountability.