Young people, women to transform politics and Fiji

PARTY OPINION By ROSHIKA DEO Rohika Deo is an aspiring independent politician running for the 2014 elections. We notice that people saying different things now but they are still continuing
01 Mar 2014 09:08

Rohika Deo is an aspiring independent politician running for the 2014 elections.

We notice that people saying different things now but they are still continuing to do the same things within the same institutional structures, and are telling us that things will be better and progressive. 
For us, we recognised that there was an urgent need for us to do something but something different.  
‘Be The Change’ campaign was that something different. 
We thought long and hard about our political history, the many coups, the democratisation process and what politics meant to us today; and this determined the vision, structure, mandate, and process for ‘Be The Change’.
‘Be The Change’ campaign is a national political movement led by young people and women. 
‘Be The Change’ has a long-term vision however in the short-term our vision is to create spaces for young people and women to redefine politics, to create a “learn by doing” training ground for aspiring politicians and to ensure that the most vulnerable of our people are included in this process.
We have visited many communities sharing information, talking to people about their experiences and about the importance of participating in politics, elections and nation- building.
One thing evident was that the existing institutions and structures (including political spaces) do not enable young people and women to have substantive roles, including decision-making power in society. In fact some of it imposes more challenges and barriers. 
Our social and political structures until today continue to be portrayed through exploitation, racism, sexism, violence, domination, political exclusion, and unequal access to resources. We need urgent structural changes.  
‘Be The Change’ is transforming these structure and spaces to bring about the change that we need and want - the change that will have to start from us and in our communities.

Democracy for us by us
When a government says they will “give” us genuine democracy and continues to oppress us from expressing our opinions, from showing dissent, from participating in decision-making that affects our lives and livelihood, and from being involved in the selection of our government, including creating a culture of fear and intimidation, we need to then stop for a minute and ponder what is genuine democracy and what does it mean to us.
‘Be The Change’ strongly believes that no one can give us democracy; it’s not a perfect gift that some have power over, and gives out as charity to the people of Fiji. 
Democracy is something that we the people need to create; we need to actively pursue and at times we need to fight (non-violently) for genuine democracy, especially young people and women, who generally get excluded.
Democracy is not only about elections and voting, it is much more than that. It is our day-to-day life. 
It is about unity and humanity. It is about living without fear. It is about having the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  
Think about it. Genuine democracy is participatory and representative. How can we achieve that if we are unable to freely exchange our thoughts, suspicions, beliefs, ideas, and if we are prevented from getting access to information upon which we can form this opinions and ideas.  
In our society, we see it so often the different forms of control in the name of a misconstrued notion of “respect”; the use of violence, gun, fear, threats, prejudice, hate; the prevalence of machoism as the ideal form of leadership; and the political and economic power over others. 
If we were to even look at voting and elections, how is one expected to vote fairly and effectively if we do not have free access to information and ideas, and we are not able to express our view freely and without the risk of getting into trouble? How are we expected to take part in public decision-making that affects our daily lives? Governments act on our behalf, and if genuine democracy is what we want then we should know what the Government is doing on our behalf and be able to evaluate those actions and decisions. 
We, the people of Fiji are capable of creating a democratic society and governance that works for all of us – but we need to change our attitudes and behaviour, we need to work together, and share our ideals and views to shape our present and future.  
Demonstrate your integrity and political authority and legitimacy with determination and active participation – ‘Be The Change’! 

n The opinions expressed in this column are those of Roshika Deo. They are published by the Fiji Sun to enhance free and open debate ahead of the General Elections.

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