Women’s rights highlighted

The Fijian Government has made commitments at various levels to improve the quality of lives of women and girls and to uphold their fundamental human rights and is accountable at international platforms to ensure fulfillment of these commitments. Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa made these statements while officiating at the opening of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA +25) Review Forum in Suva.

The BPA is a result of the international community having a consensus on a comprehensive blueprint of commitments supporting the full development of women and their equality with men in twelve areas of concern, namely: Women and poverty, Education and training of women, Women and health, Violence against women, Women and armed conflict, Women and the economy, Women in power and decision-making, Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, Human rights of women, Women and the media, Women and the environment and the girl-child.

The forum was organized by the ministry, bringing together representatives of 52 Non-Governmental, Governmental, Faith-based and Civil Society organizations to appoint a steering committee to scrutinize the responses that the Ministry had received from individuals and organizations within the public and private sectors, in response to the 40 Review Questions also provided by the UN Regional Commission and UN Women pertaining to the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA +25) Progress report that Fiji is set to submit in May this year.

“These submissions will be instrumental in identifying the major gaps and discrepancies which Government will need to look into closely, and also strengthen the work and Implementation of the National Gender Policy in the Ministry and within the Government machinery,” Minister Vuniwaqa said.

While addressing the participants, Hon. Vuniwaqa said national reviews of this nature are important because there are evidences such as the high rates of violence against women, lack of sex disaggregated data to inform sound policies across the various sectors of the economy, a large margin of difference in women’s political leadership, lack of women’s equal participation in decision making from community to organizational levels, need to further improve women’s economic participation and the need to expedite better access to justice that show that we still have a lot of work to do in the area of women’s empowerment and gender equality.

“Fiji has taken huge strides in the area of women’s empowerment and gender equality on the legislative reforms; national policies and guidelines on mainstreaming gender, responding to gender based violence involving women in climate change, integrating the empowerment of women in our national development plan, economic empowerment programs to promote women in small-micro enterprise businesses, innovatively strengthening social protection programs to make them inclusive, establishing networks and partnerships or engaging with women’s organizations to protect the interests of Fijian women and we have a lot to share in terms of our progress, especially as we lead the progress in the Pacific,” she said.

Minister Vuniwaqa further emphasized that the national-level review should assess progress made in the implementation of policies and programs which aimed at achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment and also identify challenges encountered.

“It should also result in renewed commitment and clear sets of priority actions, with timelines, actors and resources for implementation, and it has been recommended that that reviews of this nature should align and build synergies with work on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and galvanize its gender-responsive implementation,” she added.