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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Women in Leadership & Democratisation Process

FWRM believes strongly that women’s equal representation at all levels of decision-making and leadership is key to improving gender equality and women’s human rights. As part of this work, FWRM mobilises and creates spaces for diverse women to meaningfully engage in democratisation processes. To catalyse this work, FWRM forms strategic partnerships with the shared goal of promoting women’s representation in leadership. This includes The Fiji Women’s Forum (convened by FWRM, Soqosoqo Vakamarama i-Taukei and femLINKpacific) and the Fiji Young Women’s Forum (convened by House of Colours, femLINKpacific and the Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni), of which FWRM serves as Secretariat for both. A clearer understanding on the context of women’s political participation and leadership, and awareness-raising on the need for more female representation in decision-making spaces is needed. Every elections year and as a build up to polling day, FWRM embarks on a campaign to highlight the need to have more women leaders and the lack of women in leadership spaces, especially in Parliament. The following video is the most recent version of the videos that are reproduced as a part of this campaign. This video was shared in 2022 prior to national elections. In 2023, with the support of UN Women and the Spotlight Initiative, our team conducted a study that included a voluntary questionnaire survey with a total of 906 responses across Fiji (851 survey responses and 55 interviews). 

                                  


The Fiji Women's Forum

The Fiji Women's Forum is made up of four women's organization in Fiji hereinafter referred to as the co-conveners namely Soqosoqo Vakamarama i-TaukeiFiji Women's Rights Movement and femLINKpacific.

The Fiji Women’s Forum was formed in 2012 in order to bring together diverse women’s groups, towards the shared aim of increasing women’s participation in leadership. Specifically, they put aside their differences to come together to increase women’s participation in the Fiji national elections held in September 2014.

The Forum believes the under-representation of women all spheres is directly linked to many of the challenges that women face, including the struggles with conflict and democratization. The Fiji Women’s Forum believes that the full representation of women at all levels is a fundamental ingredient in the prevention of the resurgence of violence and the long-term sustainability of peace and democracy. 

The co-conveners believe Peace, Human Security and Sustainable Development are possible when women in all our diversities are equal partners within civil society, and with governments and international organisations. Women’s participation is key from the local to the national level and must be supported with an inclusive and creative information and communication system. By amplifying women’s knowledge and voices, a shift from reaction to prevention is possible.

As of 2015, four national forums have been held and they have enabled a diversity of women to mobilize in large numbers and implement civic education in collaboration with other women. Women participated in the constitution making process at different levels and degrees allowing for their voices and experiences to be included in the democratisation process.

The Forum co-convenors have also had opportunities to share knowledge and experiences through exchange with women living under similar contexts such Solomon Islands and Timor Leste.

Ongoing activities include women in politics training, civic education and intergenerational dialogues.

The following are Outcome Statements released at the culmination of each Forum:

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Fijian Women's Political Empowerment

FWRM strongly believes that to achieve gender parity, women's leadership in all spaces need to be prioritised, particularly in parliament, where national decisions are made that affect women and girls - who make 49.5% of Fiji's total population.

In the 2018 elections, 23.8% of the total number of candidates that stood for elections were women. Out of the six parties that contested the elections, the only one woman-led party had more than 50% female candidates but did not meet the threshold and did not make it to parliament. Of the three parties that made it into parliament, two had 19.6% female candidates and the third had 13.73%. So even at candidacy level, the 30% threshold was not met.

The 2022 elections, was a milestone in our country’s democratic journey – yet there was a steep decrease in women representatives, with the number of women in the Fiji Parliament dropping from ten out of 51 MPs (19.6%) to six out of 55 (10.9%). 

The Fiji Women's Forum has thus taken the initiative to organise Women in Politics training for aspiring female candidates who are interested in participating in the national elections.

The objective of the WIP workshop was to provide guided campaign techniques for aspiring women candidates and provisional women candidates from registered political parties, and to also include women who have sound knowledge and interest on women’s human rights, national gender policies and gender and development and wish to contribute to more than just the Temporary Special Measures.

The programme also includes female representatives from political parties with members of parliament and other senior officials of political parties vying for elections who share their experiences on the issues they face whilst campaigining and after.

To date there has been 2 WIP workshops and these will continue as we build up to national elections.

Fiji Young Women's Forum

FWRM believes that any process without young women's full engagement in national or local elections is not a democratic process. Strengthening the capacity of young women in various political spaces is democracy in action and encourages young women to bring about transformative change in their communities.

The IWLP has provided a Secretariat role that strives to facilitate constructive alliances between young women-led organisations to conceptualise the Fiji Young Women's Forum. This builds on the rich tradition of activism and feminism by Fijian women throughout our national herstory.

The Fiji Young Women’s Forum (FYWF) is co-convened by the Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni (ELFA), femLINKpacific and House of Colours. These three organisations, along with former co-convener, Diverse Voices for Equality Fiji (DIVA) have demonstrated great leadership and solidarity in young Fijian women by producing five progressive outcome statements in five forums in response to barriers to young women's meaningful participation and representation in Fiji's democratisation process.

The FYWF recognises the unique young women-led space that fosters solidarity amongst a diversity of young women which includes young lesbian, bisexual transgender, queer and intersex persons, young women with disabilities, young women of both religious and non-religious beliefs, aspiring young women politicians, young women sex workers, rural young women and young women mental health consumers.

Recognising that young women have been marginalised from national democratisation processes motivated FYWF to affirm that Personal is Political, consequently creating visibility in this process. The FYWF has provided a strategic platform to motivate young women voters in the 2014, 2018 and 2022 Elections to raise awareness and the ongoing work to enhance active citisenship to hold national leaders accountable. 

The FYWF also produces the 'My Guide to Voting' (MG2V) Booklet with the main aim of helping young women understand the importance of voting in relation to human rights, gender and feminism in order and encouraging them to participate in the elections process by voting in Fiji's national elections. The booklet was first published in 2014 and is updated every election year. The most recent version is available below along with the National Declaration published in 2022. 

Civic Education - My Guide to Voting Booklet Distribution

Recognising that young women have been marginalised from national democratisation processes motivated the Fiji Young Women's Forum to affirm that Personal is Political, consequently creating visibility in this process. The FYWF has provided a strategic platform to motivate young women voters in the 2014, 2018 and 2022 Elections to raise awareness and the ongoing work to enhance active citisenship to hold national leaders accountable. 

The FYWF also produces the 'My Guide to Voting' (MG2V) Booklet with the main aim of helping young women understand the importance of voting in relation to human rights, gender and feminism in order and encouraging them to participate in the elections process by voting in Fiji's national elections. The booklet was first published in 2014 and is updated every election year. The most recent version is available below along with the National Declaration published in 2022. 
 
MG2V image
 

Intergenerational Dialogues

The 1st Intergenerational Dialogue was held on 1-2 November 2022 at the Pearl Resort in Pacific Harbor. Co-convened by The Fiji Women’s Forum and the Fiji Young Women’s Forum, this Intergenerational Dialogue is a commitment to continue to support the empowerment of women in promoting political participation in the pursuance of self-determination, true democracy and representation. There are persistent inequalities and inequities perpetuated by structures and institutions and societal practices that disregard women, people, agency, human rights, freedoms, indigenous, ethnic minority and other community concerns. As diverse women leaders, we commit to bring the voice, agency and actions grounded in collaboration and solidarity from community to national level to create a better future.

The inaugural Intergenerational Dialogue came in the wake of the announcement of the writ of the 2022 Fiji General Elections and with the announcements of candidates where representation of women has been consistently low. Until 2024, we have had three intergenerational dialogues.

                                              

The FWF and FYWF continues to rally for empowerment of women in promoting political participation in the pursuance of self-determination, true democracy and representation and through  these dialogues, the Forums continue to emphasise the importance of fair representation and meaningful participation for young diverse women, and call on leaders at all levels to engage and integrate young women of all backgrounds in decision-making areas.