Saturday, January 26, 2008
The women of Fiji
This photo was taken at International Women's Day last year of girls from MGM school in Suva.
I read with interest a very good letter in today's Fiji Times by Suzana Tuisawau and it raised a few issiues for me.
Here's her letter:
I wish to respond to issues that the media has reported as being raised by the interim Minister for Women, Dr Jiko Luveni (FS 24/1/08 and FT 24/1/08) when addressing a workshop on CEDAW.
I have great respect for Dr Luveni and wish her well in her new post. However, I do feel duty bound to react to two issues raised.
Firstly, that when Fiji ratified CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women), Fiji's government had in essence made the commitment to recognise the rights of women as citizens and ensure that all policies and practices that discriminate against women are eliminated.
This entails honouring women's right to make choices about their governance or the way they wish to be governed.
It means acknowledging the integrity and rationalisation of women NGOs of Fiji to make the collective decision through their national body, the National Council of Women, not to be part of the National Council of Building A Better Fiji.
They have obviously made a principled stand based on their organisations values. This is their constitutional right.
May I correct an outdated notion that may have been wrongly construed as projected by educators.
This is about "science being masculine while the arts is regarded as feminine and seen as an ornament of the domestic sector".
I kindly assure my good minister that in my long involvement with Fiji's education sector, the two subject areas mentioned have not been regarded or projected as such.
There were other factors which had prevailed upon the schools, their administration, teaching resources, facilities and teachers, right from primary school level to secondary and tertiary level which had contributed more to the lower number of women in the earlier days, taking up a science course (I suspect that figures will show that the situation has now changed.)
Let us respect the women of Fiji. Let us face it, history tells us that the women of Fiji were the first to establish NGOs and service the community as volunteers.
They still run or service the majority of civil society organisations of Fiji and are fearless when defending what they think is morally right.
As mothers of the nation and of the future of Fiji they serve as the conscience of the nation.
Their choice may just be the useful and timely guide we need at this hour.
Pacific Foundation for the Advancement of Women
(cover of January Marama magazine which has several articles inside, one about Dr Jiko, others about the Soqosoqo Vakamarama and CEDAW.)
I. "science being masculine while the arts is regarded as feminine and seen as an ornament of the domestic sector". Hey, what a view! As Susana pointed out, this is a problem if people have such an outdated view. Women can do science really, really well, and some guys can do the arts really, really well.
2. Some excellent Fiji women have come forward to join in the discussion on the charter - Dr Jiko is one, Lorini Tevi is another, but the smart, ethical women will probably have a hard task alongside a large number of wannabee, opportunist guys in the committees.
3. Some excellent Fiji women have chosen not to be involved, taken a principled stand as Susana writes, believing that you do not team up with those who have created havoc in society, and that is understandable also.
4. I think it is true that women are the conscious of society when the men fail to be responsible fathers/mentors/leaders.
A transcript of Dr Jiko Luveni's speech at CEDAW can be found here.