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EDITORIAL : New Way For iTaukei Villages For The Future

The proposed Village Bylaw will bring clarity to governance at village level. At the moment, there are unwritten rules being observed through the goodwill of villagers who understand the purpose
28 Oct 2016 11:00
EDITORIAL : New Way For iTaukei Villages For The Future

The proposed Village Bylaw will bring clarity to governance at village level. At the moment, there are unwritten rules being observed through the goodwill of villagers who understand the purpose of those rules.

In many villages the wearing of hats within the village perimeter is prohibited. This is a mark of respect because caps or hats are regarded as foreign to the local culture.

Women are not allowed to wear pants, long and short. Again the rationale there is that it is a foreign habit. But it does not make sense when the rule does not apply to men too. It smacks of gender discrimination.

But in the cultural setting of the village, women are put on a pedestal. They are elevated to a level where they are respected and protected, and there is expectation that they reciprocate the adulation through their beauty, grace and virtue.

This is a throwback from an ancient past when women were revered as princesses. Many tribal wars were fought over them. Men recognised women for their child-bearing role and as nurturers in the home and they would go to great lengths to protect them for the survival of the tribes. There was real concern that childless men could lead to tribes or clans becoming extinct.

iTaukei families are based on patriarchal lines where the men hold the power, leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. In a family setting, the father or father figure holds authority over women and children. The advent of Christianity reinforced this practice although it has been modified to avoid physical, sexual and emotional abuse. While men are still regarded as heads in the home, they are now required to preside with love and understanding. Campaigns conducted by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation have demonised violence in the home and called on men to treat their women and children with respect and dignity.

It will be interesting to see the content of the Village by-law with respect to this. Going by what Naipote Katonitabua, the Permanent Secretary, is saying, the document is aimed at achieving order, peace and stability in the village.

The turaga-ni-koro (village headman) can be a lonely person without the support of the villagers. The village is communally based. This means that activities can only achieve their objectives with the support of the villagers.

The practice of setting aside one day in the week for village clean-up has not been working well in some villages because of the lack of support.

Communal living can be a powerful experience and source to do many good things if there is unity.

Three villages of a tikina raised $46,000 during half a day of “soli” (contribution) to fund some community projects. Not every adult member of those villagers gave their $100 levy. If everyone did, the figure could have exceeded $100,000. But the money collected that day demonstrated the strength of doing things communally.

The family relationships and network forged by the village lifestyle encourage villagers to work together particularly in times of hardship and disaster.

It is hoped that while the Village by-law strengthens this, it also encourages individual entrepreneurship and enterprise — that villagers understand that there is a bigger world out there, outside of the village perimeter, offering opportunities for their children in education, employment, business and commerce.

The village can be the base where those, who have ventured out at certain times of their career, can always come back to. They can return to contribute to developments there and live, if they want to.

The village can be a nurturing centre for  children preparing to face life’s challenges if the new vision mapped out by iTaukei Affairs is successful.

The vision requires a change in mindset, like moving away from a culture of consumption to a culture of savings and prudent financial management.

When this begins to happen then the new change becomes meaningful.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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