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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

07 May 2024

Author

Fiji Women's Rights Movement

Themes

Joint statement - We Must Balance the Gender Scales: Increase Women's Participation in Local Government Elections through Temporary Special Measures

24/10/2023

As Fiji prepares to hold its first local government elections after more than 15 years, we urgently call on the government to enforce provisions for temporary special measures for women in political party representation and ensure that reserved seats are secured for women in all town/city councils and its committees. Nationally, it is unacceptable that after three national elections under new electoral laws, there has been a drastic decline in women's representation from contesting national elections to being elected to Parliament. It is clear from our history that cultural, social, economic and political factors have often stood in the way of women’s political empowerment.

We remind the Fiji government of its commitments to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified in 1995. Article 4 recognizes that temporary special measures may need to be implemented in the short-term to advance women’s equality. The term “temporary special measures” is used to describe affirmative action policies and strategies to promote equality and empower women.  

Under CEDAW, Fiji must make every effort to ensure the meaningful participation of women in consultation, provision of resourcing and support for women candidates.  Furthermore, CEDAW General recommendation No. 25 states that adopting TSM shall not be considered discrimination by any State Party as it is aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women.  

We urgently call for the Office of the Solicitor General to include CEDAW General recommendation No. 25, and we reiterate that placing TSMs for women is not discriminatory nor a breach of the Fiji Constitution. In fact, it is a direct and affirmative response to effectively promote women’s political participation. Globally, out of the top 28 countries that have more than 30% women in their national parliament, 24 of them have used some form of TSM.  

One key issue to note however, is that temporary special measures are indeed supposed to be “temporary”. The idea is that women will receive initial support to enter political life, but once women have gained sufficient experience, recognition and opportunity to engage on an equal footing with men, this temporary support will be removed. 

If we are to move towards a society where half the population is reflected in all leadership spaces and opportunities, we must be gender responsive in the approaches we take to achieve gender equality. It is the duty of the government to ensure that all Fijians are represented fairly, without prejudice and discrimination. It must ensure that half the population is adequately represented on all councils.  

We strongly urge the Fiji government to conduct capacity building workshops on CEDAW for all members of parliament to understand the definition of discrimination against women, and how it applies to us. In fact, all political parties will benefit from this as well given that there are no women in their executive leadership positions. 

For any media queries, please contact FWRM Communications Officer Serelisoni Moceica on 8677 330 or

 

(Joint statement by Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), Diverse Voices for Action (DIVA) for Equality, Citizen’s Constitutional Forum (CCF), Social Education and Empowerment Programme (SEEP) and Strumphet Alliance Network)