National Action Plan To Be Completed This Year: Vuniwaqa

Mrs Vuniwaqa said the prevalence of violence against women in Fiji is among the highest in the world.
21 Feb 2020 10:19
National Action Plan To Be Completed This Year: Vuniwaqa
Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa and Assistant Minister for Health and Medical Services, Alex O’Connor outside Parliament on February 20,2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Fiji’s five-year National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls will be completed by the end of this year.

Once developed, Fiji will be one of only two countries in the world to have a whole of Government, inclusive, evidence-based approach to prevent violence against women and girls, says Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa.

The action plan is being developed by the ministry 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.

Mrs Vuniwaqa said the prevalence of violence against women in Fiji is among the highest in the world.

She said almost two out of three (64 per cent) Fijian women have been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetime – which is 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, Honourable 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.”

She said it is important to acknowledge that there are not only painful personal stories behind the statistics – but also attitudes, social norms and cultural complacency.

She stated that a lot of parents give their sons the license to act abusively and leave it 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 rationalise 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 power we covertly tell our boys is theirs through tradition, socialisation and role models.”

Mrs Vuniwaqa stressed the Fijian Government’s work to address the social ill, adding that they are not sitting idly and though they may not be riling up people’s emotions on social media on these matters they are working hard to address it.

The 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 makes the violence more likely to happen.

She also highlighted her worry about an online petition initiated by Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya regarding violence against women and girls.

“We already have national experts who have started a process towards the consolidation of a national plan. I do not say this to criticise! I say this because as leaders we need to have our efforts aligned in addressing something like Violence Against Women and Girls.”

Edited by Selita Bolanavanua

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