They say when you educate a man, you educate a person but when you educate a woman, you educate, a family, a community, a generation.
In late this year, a first National Women’s Expo was held in Fiji from the 6th -8th August, 2014 by the Ministry of Women, Children & Poverty Alleviation. This expo brought together 2000 women who were artisans, businesswomen and iTaukei leaders from rural, outer island, and urban areas.
A part of the National Women’s Expo program, a Marama ni Yavusa Summit was successfully held whereby I took the lead role as the Training Coordinator. I worked with my team in putting together a training package for our participants and worked in collaboration with Department of Women in ensuring the successful delivery of the summit.
1. iTaukei refers to Indigenous people of Fiji or Indigenous Fijian
2. Vanua refers to the indigenous people, the land, the sea & their culture and tradition
3. Fiji is comprised of 14 Provinces, 187 Districts [Tikinas] and 1171 villages
4. Marama ni Yavusa/Mataqali refers to traditional women leadership role acquired by birthright as heads of clan, sub clan or tribe
iTaukei Affairs Board
The iTaukei Affairs Board (TAB) is one of the iTaukei institution administered under the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs. It is a statutory body that administers the 14 Provincial Councils which in turn administers 187 Tikina [s] and 1171 village councils. TAB has its own Board that was promulgated in 1944 with defined tasks in the iTaukei Affairs Act (Cap 120). The Boards role is to look after the good governance and well-being of the iTaukei.
The distinct characteristic of TAB is the dual organizational role it plays to the Government and Vanua structures. While it’s a key stakeholder in the Governments Integrated Rural Development framework, it also facilitates and monitors the resolutions of the un coded “Vanua” meetings on the other.
The organization, as a statutory authority provides an effective medium for Government policies and programs to 1171 villages in the country through the Provincial Councils monitoring all development projects at the rural communities ensuring these projects are in line with Government policies.
Simply TAB is the doorway to the province and the villages through which all government departments and non-government organizations must go through in order for their services to be effective.
Women’s Role in Fiji
The Ministry of Women, Children & Poverty Alleviation is the primary advisor to Government on women and gender issues in addressing women’s needs, interests and aspirations (development: economically and socially).
The United Nations General Assembly in December 1977 adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights. Today, women’s equality has grown to mean much more than just sharing the right to the vote, but women’s organization continue to advocate and work to provide women with equal opportunities to education and employment, pushing against suppression and violence towards women and against the discrimination and stereotyping which still occur in every society, very much prevalent in the iTaukei community in Fiji.
Gender Challenges in Fiji
Fiji is a male-controlled society it also has challenges that will need to be addressed;
(a)iTaukei cultural practices, myth and religious leaders (through their interpretation of Bible) tend to support the view that women are insubordinates;
(b)women who are raised in villages are being discriminated in the conduct of how women are treated;
(c)reported cases including a high number of unreported cases on violence against women (children in sexual and physical) is assumed as the right way to treat woman and children; and
(d)women continue to be misrepresented in Boards, Committees and Organizations.
Gender Statistics in Fiji;
(a)in the iTaukei traditional structure, there are 1,390 Yavusa (s) and 5,280 Mataqali (s) and 170 title holders are women, or 2.54 percent as women representationin both categories;
(b)in statutory bodies by gender ratio: 23 percent are women; and
(b)in health care and education sectors, women dominate due to their reproductive roles as care givers and educators.
Marama ni Yavusa Summit, 2014
A Platform for Empowering & Enhancing Traditional Women’s Leadership Role
In early August this year, the
iTaukei Affairs Board in collaboration with Ministry of Women, Children and
Poverty Alleviation and with financial assistance of United Nation Development
Programme – CPAD we brought together for the first time in Fiji 42 traditional
women’s leaders from the 14 provinces of Fiji for a 3 days summit in Suva City.
These women are wives, mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmothers but at the same holds a traditional role that we believe can be an effective medium in effecting change in the communities.
The role of the traditional women leaders in the iTaukei community is slowly being recognized as one of the concrete foundation of leadership in the iTaukei community. And when a woman becomes a leader within the iTaukei community, the role she plays should be supported by the community, not as woman but as a community leader.
The summit aimed at empowering and enhancing the traditional leadership role of women in the Vanua for the better management of their lives and their natural resources.
The three days event enlightened and re-illiterate to the participants the importance of safeguarding, and protecting the integrity of the iTaukei values within the traditional law and integrating it with the good governance principle for the better management of lives in the iTaukei communities due to the following;
-The increases in many social problems in the iTaukei communities’ ;
-and the lack of delivery by the community leaders;
-and the inactive of the Bose Vanua [Vanua dialogue platform]
The women were also encouraged to be the drivers of change in their community and to take lead in voicing and implementing sound and ethical change for their sons, daughters and their grandchildren.
After the Marama ni Yavusa Summit, these women realized that the Vanua as whole, and their role as women leaders should be seriously considered by the Vanua as an important avenue in empowering iTaukei women leaders as they are effective role model in society who can contribute positively in the well-being and welfare of their communities in addressing the many social issues like crime and at the same time will preserve their identity and values, and safeguard the wellbeing and welfare of the future.