Politics

Fiji’s National Action Plan To Prevent Violence Against Women And Girls: Vuniwaqa

Fijian women and girls experience violence and abuse at the hands of men they know—often in their own homes and often repeatedly, sometimes over many years, if not a lifetime
20 Feb 2020 19:22
Fiji’s National Action Plan To Prevent Violence Against Women And Girls: Vuniwaqa
Mereseini Vuniwaqa.

Honorable Speaker,

I rise to inform this august house about the Fiji National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls which the Fijian Government through the National Women’s machinery has committed to develop. But firstly, I would like to remember the many Fijian women and girls who have been murdered, injured, abused or otherwise harmed by men who professed to have loved them.

Fijian women and girls experience violence and abuse at the hands of men they know—often in their own homes and often repeatedly, sometimes over many years, if not a lifetime. We know this violence by many names and in many forms – family and domestic violence, intimate partner violence, emotional abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, femicide and
others.

Honorable Speaker,
The prevalence of violence against women in Fiji is among the highest in the world – with almost 2 out of 3 (64%) women who have been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetime – double the global average (which is 1 out of 3 women) and most cases are perpetrated by an intimate partner. Our
Honourable Prime Minister once stated that Violence against women and girls in Fiji is a national shame. It is Hon. Speaker. IT IS! The murder of women and girls, especially in the context of domestic and family violence, is often the final result of a long history of abuse. In 2019 alone, 10 Fijian women were killed by their intimate partners.

It is important to recognize and acknowledge that there are not only painful personal stories behind these statistics – but there are also attitudes, social norms and cultural complacency.
Attitudes that are embedded in gender inequality, gender discrimination and patriarchy. To me, knowingly or not, a lot of us give our boys license to act abusively and it’s up to girls to adjust accordingly. This isn’t nature, this isn’t nurture. We dismiss boys’ aggression as a function of their masculinity and we rationalize it. The more we conform to gender stereotypes – masculine: strong, assertive and powerful; and feminine: submissive, pretty and weak, the conditions remain ripe for Fijian men and boys to exert power and control over women and girls– a power we covertly tell our boys is theirs through tradition, socialization and role models.

Violence against women and girls is rooted in gender-based discrimination and social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate such violence. Global evidence confirms that this significant social problem is ultimately preventable. This means there is considerable scope for us as individuals, communities and leaders to prevent violence against women and girls before it occurs and stop it before it starts.

Honorable Speaker,
The Government of Fiji recognizes its obligation to prevent violence against women and girls and I am very pleased to stand here today and share that the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation (MWCPA) will lead the development of a five-year (2020-2025) National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against
Women and Girls. This will be done in collaboration with the Ministry for Education, Heritage and Arts, Ministry for Health and Medical Services, and the Ministry for Employment, Productivity,
Industrial Relations, Youth and Sports. Hon. Speaker Government isn’t sitting idly by in relation to the perpetuation of violence against women and girls in Fiji. We may not be riling up people’s emotions on social media on these matters but I assure this House and the people of Fiji that Government is working hard to address this social ill.

By way of providing some background, the Ministry of women, children and poverty alleviation organized a small advisory consultation group made up of experts and key stakeholders to participate in a two-day meeting on 4-5 December 2019. The purpose of this meeting was to advance critical discussions and obtain an agreement related to the content and development of the National Action Plan to Prevent VAWG, including agreement on what causes VAWG in Fiji. This workshop was attended by representatives of various government ministries, women’s human rights organisations, transgender people’s human rights organisation, a disabled people’s organisation (DPO), faith-based organisations, health-care service providers, nongovernmental organisations, and other civil society organisations. The meeting result was consensus on the root cause and contributing factors that increase the risk for VAWG in Fiji; the scope of violence to be
addressed in the National Action Plan and agreement on shared language and definitions to be used moving forward; along with recommendations on the process for developing the National
Action Plan. In addition, participants agreed to form and be part of a wider Prevention Advisory Group to support the development of the National Action Plan. As a result, a strategic outcome document was developed and validated by all members of the Prevention Advisory Group as a foundational first step to developing the National Action Plan.

On the 13th of January 2020, I with my fellow ministers – Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, Honourable Rosy Akbar; Minister for Health and Medical Services, Honourable Ifereimi Waqainabete; and Assistant Minister for Employment, Productivity, Industrial Relations, Youth and Sports, Honourable Alvick Maharaj made a public announcement of this shared commitment formally through a press conference.

Honorable Speaker,
Once developed, Fiji will be one of the only two countries in the world to have a whole of government, inclusive, evidence-based approach to prevent violence against women and girls. The Fiji National Action Plan to prevent Violence against women and girls will focus on preventing domestic violence, intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women and girls with an emphasis on stopping violence before it starts. Data and evidence from Fiji demonstrate that these are the most prevalent or widespread forms of violence against women and girls which urgently need to be addressed. It will include both primary prevention and secondary prevention strategies and approaches.

In elaborating to the members of the august house, a primary prevention approach involves working with whole communities to address the underlying root causes of violence – attitudes,
behaviours, social norms and practices that cause violence against women and girls. Secondary prevention refers to response services that aim to stop repeat experiences of violence after it has already happened.

Honorable Speaker,
Please allow me to highlight that the key components of the Fiji National Action Plan will include an explanation of why Violence Happens in Fiji. In order to solve a national problem, there must be an evidenced-based, as well as shared understanding amongst us Fijians for what causes it. The National Action Plan will explain, using data and evidence, what the root causes of violence against women and girls are in Fiji, and what additional contributing factors make the violence more likely to happen.

Hon. Speaker when coming up with a plan or a strategy to combat a national challenge it is critical that such a plan or strategy is based on data and evidence. Data and evidence must inform and advice any plan or strategy.

It therefore worries me as the Minister for Women to read online about a petition by the Hon. Tabuya on Violence Against women and girls. We already have national experts who have started a
process towards the consolidation of a national plan. Hon. Speaker, I do not say this to criticize! I say this because as leaders we need to have our efforts aligned in addressing something like Violence Against Women and Girls.

The NAP will further outline the key strategies and actions needed to address the factors that cause and contribute to violence against women and girls. It will look also at how the different environments in which Fijians live, work, learn, socialize, pray and play can be key settings for prevention activities including: Education, Health and Social Services, Sports & Recreation clubs/spaces, Faith Based Contexts, and so on. It will also map out the different stakeholders and their roles, responsibilities, expertise, and capacities to prevent violence against women and girls.

Honorable Speaker,
The National Action Plan will be accompanied also by a National Communications Strategy and an implementation plan to ensure alignment on consistent messaging on prevention across a variety
of channels to reach multiple levels of society in Fiji.

Furthermore, the National Action Plan will be developed in a consultative and participatory manner, engaging citizens, both government and nongovernment actors alike, with responsibility for various stages of design and implementation assigned appropriately. This means a series of nationwide consultations and dialogues with Fijians women, men, girls and boys, stakeholders from key settings/sectors and communities will be undertaken in 2020 to inform the development of the National Action Plan.

 

Honorable Speaker,
The key Components of the Fiji National Action Plan include:
 An Explanation of Why Violence Happens in Fiji: In order to solve a national problem, there must be an evidenced-based understanding for what causes it. The National Action Plan will explain, using data and evidence, what the ‘root’ cause of violence against women and girls is in Fiji, and what additional ‘contributing factors’ that make the violence more likely to happen.
 Key Strategies to Prevent Violence in Fiji: This will outline the key strategies and actions needed to address the factors that cause and contribute to violence against women and girls in Fiji. Some examples of the types of strategies in the National Action Plan may include: evidence-based policies and programmes that promote respectful relationships, group education with boys and men (sometimes in combination with women and girls), community engagement, ending the disrespectful portrayal of women in the media, and leading on public education and social media campaigns.
 Key Settings for Prevention: This will look at how the different environments in which people live, work, learn, socialise and play can be key settings for prevention activities including Education, Health and Social Services, Sports & Recreation clubs/spaces, Faith-Based Contexts, and so on. These settings and approaches will ensure different communities are reached and engaged across Fiji.
 Stakeholder Roles & Responsibilities: This will map out the different stakeholders and their roles, responsibilities, expertise, and capacities to prevent VAWG in Fiji. The roles and responsibilities will be linked to the Implementation Plan.
 Implementation Plan: The Implementation Plan will be outlined step-by-step, including the national outcomes and targets, and explain how the outcomes will be achieved and the targets met, during the 2020-2025 period.
 Performance Monitoring, Reporting and Evidence: There will be a rigorous approach to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the National Action Plan, and the success of each outcome and target will be measured over time. This will contribute to building a strong evidence- base for Fiji.
 National Communications Strategy: The National Action Plan will be accompanied by a National Communications Strategy and an implementation plan to ensure alignment on consistent messaging on prevention across a variety of channels to reach multiple levels of society in Fiji.
 Costed Implementation Plan: A clear and costed budget to match the Implementation plan will also be developed.

Honorable Speaker,
The National Action Plan will be developed in a participatory manner, engaging both government and nongovernment actors alike, with responsibility for various stages of design and implementation assigned appropriately. Based on the main recommendations from the Prevention Advisory Group meeting, the following key steps will be taken:
 A series of nationwide consultations and dialogues with stakeholders from key settings/sectors and communities will be undertaken in 2020 to inform the development of the National Action Plan. This will be led by MWCPA and partners. It will be inclusive, ensuring the voices of ALL women and girls.
 The Prevention Advisory Group will provide technical guidance to the Fijian Government in the development and rollout of the National Action Plan.
 A core working group nominated from within the Prevention Advisory Group will further accelerate action and provide strategic and technical oversight, and endorsement of the National Action Plan and processes as it develops.

The Ministry plans to complete the development of the National Action Plan by the end of 2020. UN Women is the primary technical partner to the Ministry in developing the National Action Plan and UN Women’s technical and financial support is provided through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls, funded by the European Union (EU) and the governments of Australia and New Zealand with support from UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO). In addition to UN Women, the MWCPA is receiving further technical support from the Government of Australia.

Honorable Speaker,
A national conversation that honors and does justice to the experience of women and girls who have for too long suffered in silence, some paying the ultimate price is very crucial in ensuring we all take responsibility in informing and executing the process. The extent and depth of change required to end violence against women is daunting. It will not be happening overnight. But the time for change is here and now. It is time to further our collective action and that takes all of us working at the same time, towards the same goal. I am hopeful and dedicated. I am optimistic that we may arrive much sooner than we expect to our desired destination – Gender Equality.

I thank you

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