Analysis

Lynda May Face Political Backlash For ‘Chief’ Talk

How do we reconcile this position and the ongoing revolution in the modern Fiji where we are empowering women to become equal partners in national development?
09 Mar 2019 10:52
Lynda May Face Political Backlash For ‘Chief’ Talk
Opposition Member of Parliament Lynda Tabuya outside Parliament on February 13, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Lynda Tabuya could be facing a political backlash from within her own SODELPA party for her comments where she goes through challenges as a young woman because she is not a chief.

The Opposition Whip and SODELPA Member of Parliament said: “It’s all about status. How do I deal with such stereotype behaviour especially in our modern day age?”

She asked the question at the Westpac International Women’s Day celebration and launch of the 2019 Westpac Women and Girls Education Grants in Suva on Thursday.

It is understood that she was referring to how she has been treated in the party, highlighted by the criticism of her dress standard at last year’s ceremonial opening of Parliament by fellow MP Mosese Bulitavu.

Mr Bulitavu was representing the conservative right wingers who hold a dominating influence in the party.
As the row escalated, Opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka mediated in a meeting that ended the hostility.
But this new development is likely to rekindle the issue, particularly the reference to the chiefs and young women.

Ro Teimumu Kepa is recognised and respected because she is the paramount chief of Rewa and the Burebasaga Confederacy. Because Ms Tabuya is not a chief, she does not enjoy the same status and would have to work hard to earn respect.

In the context of the iTaukei culture, this demarcation line is deeply embedded and is difficult to erase.
The other challenge, of course, is the male chauvinism that still exists in our cultures, not only in the iTaukei community. It is the notion that the men are superior to women. They are the providers, protectors, head of the home or family and therefore the boss. The women play a subservient role and their place is in the kitchen and home – to cook, wash and clean.

How do we reconcile this position and the ongoing revolution in the modern Fiji where we are empowering women to become equal partners in national development?

More women are now playing influential roles in management positions in workplaces, including the Fiji Sun.
This change can only be sustainable if women enjoy shared responsibilities when they are at home.

The same goes for men too – both men and women fulfilling complementary roles. This is essential in today’s fast moving and demanding lifestyle which, in many cases, requires both husband and wife to work to sustain a decent standard of living.

A good guide is “The Family – A Proclamation to the World” by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints.

An excerpt says: “By divine design, Heavenly Father gave men and women different gifts and abilities to help them fulfil complementary roles as husband and wife. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. … Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”
The key words are “obligated to help one another as equal partners.

As we move into the public and political space, it is important that we are free to choose for ourselves and be treated equally irrespective of our ethnicity, age or socio-economic background.
But it’s the cultural and sometimes religious sensitivities that hold women back.

In Ms Tabuya’s case, she has the courage to dress the way she did and speak her mind. In the ATS strike march through Nadi, she was one of the few women leaders who featured prominently in the protest. She raised SODELPA’s profile significantly in that dispute.

She has spoken her mind again this time regarding her experience as a woman.

Mr Rabuka is unlikely to take her to task because he encourages political discussion. He believes it is healthy for democracy.
But his conservative members may not agree with him and could call for some form of punitive action against Ms Tabuya.

The fact is Ms Tabuya has raised a legitimate issue which needs to be discussed. She is looking for a solution on how women can overcome the cultural impediments to women’s progress.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@ fijisun.com.fj

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