This Govt walks the talk

By Anshoo M Chandra     Ministry of Social     Welfare, Women and     Poverty Alleviation Boost to rural living As highlighted in the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Economic Development
02 Oct 2012 07:55

By Anshoo M Chandra
    Ministry of Social
    Welfare, Women and
    Poverty Alleviation

Boost to rural living
As highlighted in the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Economic Development (2010 to 2015), rural development is at the  heart of the Fijian Government and this IS clearly evident by the integrated approach taken to create economic opportunities and reach out to rural communities in Fiji.
Through the Integrated Rural Development Programme, in the last few years, Fiji has witnessed new initiatives and developments to improve the infrastructural, educational and health services in rural areas.  Fiji also continues to strengthen its ties with international partners to boost economic growth by developing marine and agricultural resources to improve the livelihoods of rural population.

Rural Women
One of the key spheres in rural development is the empowerment of rural women as agents of change in poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
This national vision is driven by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation and it emanates from Fiji’s obligation to United Nation conventions, namely Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action.
The Women’s Plan of Action (WPA: 2010 to 2019) is a 10-year action plan promoting and protecting the rights and interests of women through specific programmes inculcated in the five thematic areas of WPA namely “Formal Sector Employment and Livelihoods” “Access to Basic Services,” “Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children, “Equal Participation in Decision Making ”and “Women and the Law.”
Government’s cordial relations with local and international stakeholders have initiated life-changing initiatives, recalling on the recent news of   solar engineers who are none other than rural women living in remote areas as far as Kadavu and Macuata. Without any formal qualification they have graduated with skills in solar electrification.
Their achievement is an inspiration and an eye-opener for local and global communities in recognising the potential of rural women.
Government’s budgetary allocation for income generating projects and literacy programmes for rural women also enables them to develop their knowledge, earn income and mould them as confident and independent women.
And not forgetting the government’s free text books and free bus fares that help the families to support the educational needs of their children.
One can hear about these untold success stories in rural areas which has been made possible through government’s bottom up approach to reach out to grassroots level.

Resource Centres
Fiji’s commitment to international instruments, in particular the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), aligned with Article 14, “Rural Women,” government has made provisions for improved facilities to boost socio-economic opportunities in rural communities.
The construction of women’s resource centres around the country emanates from the vision to empower rural women with the “One Centre One Product” concept to enable the production of items commercially required with quality and consistency of supply.
On addressing violence against women, experienced more in rural communities, the ministry in partnership with all the stakeholders has received tangible results through its Zero-Tolerance Violence-Free Community Campaign (ZTVFC).
In 2011, 15 communities joined this programme with 15 more to join this year. A recent evaluation of this campaign recorded changes in people’s perception and attitude towards the treatment of women, in recognising the value of women’s existence, within the family and beyond.
The head of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet has praised the Zero-Tolerance-Violence Free Campaign as being unique and effective, for it actually engages men to advocate for women’s rights.
As such she says the programme can be an ideal role model for Pacific island countries.

No Dependency
While government provides social welfare assistance to marginalised women, particularly single mothers and widows without any income support, government doesn’t want a dependency syndrome developing among the able-bodied population.
There are provisions to empower the disadvantaged into income- generating, independent living and walk out of poverty.
A joint effort between Government and non-governmental  organisations will drive greater impact for women development. This is why it’s important to recognise and complement initiatives taken to address the plight of rural women and ask ourselves, what we can do as an individual, as a society and as an organisation to make a difference.
As our nation progresses towards democracy and Fiji’s new constitution will be drafted, this is good opportunity for all women including women advocates, non-governmental organisations, faith based organisations and civil society organisations to actively participate in the constitution consultations and make submission on strategies to strengthen women development in Fiji.
We should leave no stones unturned and work together as one nation one people in ensuring the sustainable and harmonious development of our beautiful country.

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