Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Don't forget Fijian missionaries abroad

Don't forget Fijian missionaries abroad such as Jonetani and Losa Rika. Now elderly but they have lived in Australia for many years serving the people.

Jonetani and Losa Rika. Retired Fijian missionaries in Yirrkala who came out as an Agriculturalist in 1965 in what then was a Methodist Mission Station. Jonetani then became an influential worker for the community when Homeland and Outstation movement was established to assist Indigenous people re-settling on their traditional land. He was awarded the Order of Australia for his contribution to the Indigenous community after over 50 years of service. He is from Motulu in Lau and Losa from Vanuabalavu in Lau. Vinaka vakalevu sara na veiqaravi sa malo na vakadrakai...Praise THE LORD!!
And also there are many Pacific Island people serving in churches in Australia such as Rev. Jo Mar, and in the photo Jo is with his wife Losana and a friend Drua Loto.

An Easter Sermon from the Methodist Church

Rallying points

James Bhagwan
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
This year, Easter was observed at a time when many of our sister and brother Fijians are suffering from the impact of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston. Their experience, their despair, may have led them to ask the question, "Where is God?"
In his Easter message, Methodist Church President, Rev. Dr. Tevita Banivanua writes that Easter gives us an opportunity to ask and answer that question.
"In terms of the Easter event, we hear this question from Jesus Himself, on the cross as he cries out, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?". (Mark 15:34). Even the Son of God, who has the most intimate relationship, as part of the Trinity, with the Father, experiences this moment of separation from God, experiences a moment of asking God the Father, "where are you?" "why have you removed yourself from me?" In the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, many people have asked themselves and others, "where is God?" Some may have even asked, "is there God?"
Rev. Dr. Banivanua refers to the Judeo-Christian scriptural story of Job, which tells of a man who continues to trust in God's presence through all the calamities he face: his sons and daughters and servants a great amount of material wealth through natural disaster, human greed and disease. His wife loses faith, his friends ask, "where is God?" and think him insane for remaining faithful to God.
"Even Job begins to question God Himself and this is when God answers Job out of the whirlwind. What job's wife and friends all fail to recognise; what Job eventually understands - is that God was here from before the beginning of the world and is with him all along. It is God who is helping him endure in this crisis. God rewards Job for his faithfulness and his endurance through such suffering."
For the Methodist community in Fiji, as we journey through our New Exodus, the question of "Where is God?" will be one we will have to wrestle with on our journey to take our people of Fiji to the Kingdom of God.
In the event of Easter, we find that the disciples did not understand how God could be present in their difficulties. They did not want to see Jesus go to such difficulties. Perhaps they thought, "How could God possibly be present in such a terrible situation?"
They are moments when even Jesus seems to feel this sense of abandonment during his suffering on the cross. He moves from "Father forgive them…" to "my God, my God, why have you abandoned me," to his final words, spoken in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!"
God was there! Through pain and struggle throughout Judeo-Christianity history, the question "where is God?" is a common expression of the human condition during trials and tribulation. Nevertheless it is a question always answered, with "I am here. I have been here. I will always be here."
John Wesley silently asked this question in the midst of a storm at sea between England and the American Colony of Georgia in 1736.
As he and many of the English passengers aboard screamed in terror that they would soon be swallowed by the deep, Wesley noticed that a group of Moravian missionaries from Germany calmly sang throughout the squall. They were unafraid of death, because of their faith.
Later, after his own personal conversion; during times of persecution, Wesley's faith in God's abiding presence gave him comfort and empowerment whenever he felt alone in his tribulations. Lying on his deathbed, he repeated the affirmation, "The best of all is that God is with us."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa once reflected on this very question of "where is God?" suggesting that the answer is not up there, but down here, because God is with us in the midst of our misery. He told the following story:
"You have probably heard the story of the little Jew in the concentration camp, humiliated and taunted by his Nazi guard. And one day he is asked to clean out the restrooms, and the Nazi guard standing above him taunts him, and says, "Where is your God now?" And the little Jew replied quietly, "He's right here with me in the muck."
The Archbishop Emeritus said that in South Africa, in the time of apartheid people would ask, "God, where are you? God, do you care? God, do you see?"
"And we would tell our people that wonderful story in the book of the prophet Daniel, of the God whose servants had been cast into a fiery furnace. And then, and then, God didn't stand at a safe distance giving useful advice — "Guys, when you go into a fire, it would probably be sensible to put on protective clothing." No, fantastically, God entered the fiery furnace, and was there side by side with God's servants in their anguish and agony, because this God was Emmanuel, "God with us," God with us in our suffering, in our oppression and in our anguish."
Rev. Banivanua writes that in our struggles in Fiji, going through a second month of a State of Disaster, we must remember that in all our difficulties, God is with us.
"We continue to hear the experiences of Cyclone Winston, of our brother and sister Fijians hiding under beds, hiding below the floor, hiding in a bush. Their minds, their faith and their thinking during this situation was most likely on "God help us," "where are you God?" This is because faith lived in real life for most Fijians. Yet we must all realise that the issue is not whether God was blowing these winds but that he is right there where the suffering is."
The chief shepherd of the Methodist community's hope is that after all we have gone through as a nation that we will affirm our faith; in the painful, dark, moments that are part and parcel of our life; we will remember that God is with us.
Rev. Dr. Banivanua suggests that Easter is not only about individuals in crisis but a faith community in crisis and that how that community responded almost two thousand years ago can teach us on how we respond as a larger community.
"The cross itself, signifying death and the empty tomb, signifying resurrection of Jesus was the rallying point for primitive Christianity. The cross and the empty tomb was what bonded the People of the Way into a community, and that has become the rallying point of facing difficulties throughout the Christian era. The faith of the people standing together; not in an individualistic way, but different people - poor and rich, high and low status, young and aged, men and women - rallying together to attempt to answer the cry of those in the most need. That was a sign of the togetherness of the community of faith."
"We need such a rallying point in our Fiji today. The local responses to Cyclone Winston is a demonstration of a sense of community that goes beyond denominational boundaries and even faith and has brought Christians and those of other religious communities to work together to provide for those in need. This communal aspect of our nation is our main strength and a source of unity."
"One thing that strikes me during our time of difficulty is how we as a faith community and how we as a nation have responded to this cyclone. Our sense of community, our sense of unity, of being our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper has brought men, women, aged and children together to help one another in such a time of difficulty. Our call to the whole Christian Church and to all religious organisations and faith communities is to stand together, stand alongside each other, in love, in honesty and in trust to serve those that are in need."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

More complaints from seasonal workers on Australa

Last year a group of Fijians working at Euston/Robinvale walked off the job because of under payment. It is shocking to know the difference between the normal labour wage in Australia and what these men and women were getting.  Should be $500 a week, but it was about $10. Here's the latest  - a story from the Fiji Times which also was in the Australian media.

Pay dispute

Tevita Vuibau
Monday, March 28, 2016
THE Fijian Government has asked Australian authorities to look into the latest round of complaints of underpayment made by Fijians on the seasonal workers scheme in Australia.
This, after Australian broadcaster ABC reported yesterday that a group of Fijian workers quit working for their contractor alleging they were left with hardly any money after deductions for superannuation, health insurance and board were made. Australian Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash had told ABC "the Department of Employment had referred specific issues to the Fair Work Ombudsman for review".
Fijian Employment Minister Semi Koroilavesau said yesterday he was aware of the complaints and communication had been established with relevant authorities.
"There have been complaints raised and we have asked our Australian counterparts to handle the matter and inform us on their findings," Mr Koroilavesau said.
"We are waiting for the report and we need to be patient as it is not only Fijian workers who are involved in this seasonal work program."
The Fijian workers — part of a batch of 20 sent last year — also told ABC that Australian authorities have said they must either return to work for the contractor they said exploited them or leave Australia.
"They are pushing us to go back home. Everyone of us is not happy," one of the group's leaders Merewairita Sovasiga told ABC.
"And we are going back home with nothing. We are taking nothing back home."
A payslip obtained by ABC for a Tongan worker employed under the same contractor, showed on a weekly basis labourers could earn just over $A200 ($F313) but once all deductions were made, the worker received $A9.96 ($F15.60).
Mr Koroilavesau said he was awaiting advice on the issue from counterparts in Australia adding that ministry executives were in contact with Australian officials.
There have also been numerous social media posts on the situation with online groups established to document the alleged exploitation but Mr Koroilavesau said calmer heads needed to prevail.
"Social media has been reporting so many things and I have been told of different rates ranging from 10c to $100 a week and I have learned to ignore social media and wait for official reports from the Australian Government sources."
This is not the first time Fijians on the reestablished seasonal workers scheme have had wage disputes with Australian contractors.
Late last year a group of Fijians walked off their job at a farm in Euston, Southern New South Wales, claiming they were paid as little as $1.20 an hour.
But Mr Koroilavesau said both Australia and Fiji were learning from these experiences.
"Both governments know that there would be initial difficulties and it is work in progress. We cannot rush into these schemes hoping for miracles and as I have said, both governments are working together to overcome these hurdles."
He said the ministry was reviewing its selection criteria to allow the best suited Fijians to travel to Australia and not only be good workers but good ambassadors.
"While our ministry have been thorough in their selection, it is evident that there are still loopholes that we need to cover and improve on.
"Our preparations have been thorough also and I personally farewelled the groups in Nadi and have genuine discussions with them but we need to be patient and have a better understanding on the issues."

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Books for Seaqaqa

Club helps school with library books

Serafina Silaitoga
Sunday, March 27, 2016
THE Rotary Club of Labasa yesterday helped students of Seaqaqa with library books.
Club members handed over to school teachers library books worth about $5400.
Receiving the books, Seaqaqa Primary School assistant headteacher Jagendra Prasad said the contribution would go a long way to satisfy the school's library needs.
"We have a library but these books will give our students a variety of reading choices and we are so fortunate to be assisted by the club," he said.
"Reading is an important part of any child's life so we have always worked towards expanding our school library.
"These new books will help improve the literacy level of our students."
Mr Prasad said students' reading skills had vastly improved with the presence of the school library.
"Even the younger classes have picked up well with reading. We have always made sure that students make good use of the library," he said.
"The teachers have seen a lot of improvement in the students' reading and we have also seen most of them take interest in reading."
Club executive Ami Kohli said the books were given from abroad.
-----------------------  It would be good to know who donated the books - from New Zealand, from Australia, from Donation in Kind Rotary projects?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Thank you Canberra

Thank you to the Australian government for the wonderful task by the men and women on the Canberra who came to Fiji's assistance after Cyclone Winston. Vinaka vakalevu.

Canberra leaves

Tevita Vuibau
Saturday, March 26, 2016
AUSTRALIA'S largest naval vessel HMAS Canberra departed our shores yesterday after successfully completing its first overseas operational deployment.
The departure was announced yesterday in a joint statement by Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Minister for Defence Marise Payne.
But defence personnel and equipment from the vessel are staying back to assist in the recovery phase.
The ministers said the Australian Defence Force's deployment to the country under Operation Fiji was moving from the phase of response to recovery.
"Australian Defence Force command and engineering personnel, vehicles and helicopters will remain in Fiji to conduct assessment activities and deliver assistance," the statement said.
"Defence force personnel removed debris, restored critical infrastructure, supplied fresh drinking water and delivered lifesaving supplies to the islands of Koro and Taveuni."
During their time in Fiji, more than 1000 Australian Defence Force and humanitarian personnel have been providing critical assistance after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.
This included the delivery of more than 341 tonnes of humanitarian disaster relief stores, supplying 30,000 litres of drinking water, delivering nearly 10,000 hygiene kits and more than 7000 shelter kits, and repairing seven primary schools, one high school and two medical centres.
"Australia has committed $A15million ($F23m) in humanitarian assistance to Fiji's recovery, providing lifesaving supplies and access to health services to 200,000 people.
"The Australian Defence Force will continue to work with the National Disaster Management Office and in support of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to help Fiji recover from this disaster.
"We remain committed to supporting Fiji's recovery and assisting our friends and neighbours in times of crisis," the ministers' joint statement said.

When building in Fiji

UN assembles group to reduce disaster risk in Pacific

Radio NZ International
Friday, March 25, 2016  (printed in Fiji Times)

Update: 7:00PM The United Nations is assembling an informal working group to help reduce the risk of disasters in the Pacific.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said it was partnering with other UN agencies, NGOs and organisations such as the Fijian government and the Institute of Fiji Engineers.
Its Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Pacific, Timothy Wilcox, said the group's focus was to share information and make sure people incorporated the concept of 'build back better' into reconstruction efforts.
"Otherwise what's going to happen is people simply reconstruct a house, or a building but they're not actually taking into consideration that another cyclone is going to happen. Which means that unless they make the new building resilient then we'll just simply be repeating all the mistakes of the past."
Mr Wilcox said strategies could include using tie down straps to secure a roof or rebuilding a house in a safer location.
Mr Wilcox also said a separate private sector group he was working on could play an important role in building resilience.
"And the hotel industry is a good example of that, whereby it's important that hotels are being built to the hazards that they are constantly exposed to here in the Pacific."
Mr Wilcox said the working group would include companies from Australia, New Zealand, and the island countries.
He said this group hoped to meet officially for the first time later this year.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Farewell Shireen Lateef

from the Fiji Times:

Tribute to 'warrior for women'

Vanessa Griffen
Sunday, March 20, 2016
SHIREEN Lateef spent her early years in Fiji at St Joseph's Secondary School before going to Australia for further studies. She gained a PhD in social anthropology and education from Monash University and lectured at Melbourne University for nine years before joining the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila, Phillipines, in 1992 as a social development analyst. She made a name for herself as a major advocate for gender equality and women's rights. On her retirement in 2015, she was senior adviser on gender in the ADB.
I remember Shireen less clearly in her early days of studying for her PhD when she came in and out of Suva. I recall her gaining her PhD and working as a lecturer in Melbourne. Then Shireen joined the ADB and the rest, as they say — or should say — is history.
Shireen was a feminist academic who had done her own social analysis and history of Fijian women of Indian descent. She entered ADB as a social development officer in a development bank whose core business was dispensing loans in millions of dollars, often as mega projects to countries in the world's most highly populated region — Asia.
In the ADB, she faced development projects on a large scale. Shireen would regale us with stories of her response when many projects did not recognise women's existence or lives. Raising her voice in telling of the story or in ADB, she would say, "Hey," with a pause for emphasis, "do you know when you do x (an agriculture project or a water project), This is what it's going to do to the women?!" Her outrage was sometimes comically presented, but absolutely grounded.
Her examples of negative development impacts on women were actual, important, vital, and on impacts too "small" to notice — unless you were a feminist analyst. Shireen could recount what development projects could mean to women in Nepal, or Pakistan, or elsewhere. That is where she travelled.
Shireen was way ahead in her on-the-ground understanding of development bank projects and their gender impacts, for a long time.
In 1995, I went to Asia when I joined the Asian and Pacific Development Centre (APDC), co-ordinating its regional Gender and Development Program in Kuala Lumpur, where I stayed for seven years. Shireen was in Manila. I knew Shireen was there, and knew she had done excellent Pacific case studies also from ADB.
She was known in many circles as a - if not "the" only critical gender voice in the ADB. In large Asia or Asia Pacific women's meetings, she attended as "a funder" or spoke as a representative of development assistance, which is how feminist or women's NGOs tended to categorise feminist women working in institutions.
Shireen had no illusions about her role and its working difference from NGO advocacy. At her desk, she had an insider view of development decisions made for country after country, with replication of minor or major development projects often involving large amounts of development loan money.
There, she was always a watchdog for women's rights, livelihoods, survival mechanisms, health, safety and economic empowerment in country development projects. It was only as a feminist that she would have seen — and truly seen — the impacts on women's reproductive work of changes to water supply, or the backbreaking additional work that a huge agriculture or infrastructure development project would bring to women's daily lives.
Shireen built up a critical gender voice in the bank on its core business - loans. Using a team of staff and regional and international experts, she helped to develop a gender policy for ADB on how to pursue, monitor and advance gender equality and equity in all the bank's operations. She also contributed to the incredibly useful but often unused Country Gender Assessments (Fiji has one). The ADB Gender Policy leaves no room for top management to ask vacuous questions about how gender equality and equity could be put into bank practice. It has its blueprint.
Our paths did not cross often, because APDC, although an intergovernmental organisation, did a lot of its Asia Pacific gender program working with women's NGOs, and through networking, advocacy, policy research and information dissemination on key women's rights and gender equality mandates.
Only later, after I had left the Asia region and then returned as a member of ADB's External Forum on Gender, while also heading the United Nation's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific's Gender Section, that I fully appreciated Shireen's work at the rockface of a massive development bank. Seeing her on her own turf and having read all the documents on ADB's Gender Policy, I appreciated just what a foundation Shireen had established in a rather monolithic-type institution.
The Forum on Gender met over two-three days and I remember being amused and then immensely admiring, of Shireen's position. At the forum, all bank section heads presented on progress in implementing the ADB gender policy in their areas. Shireen sat to the side at the top of the table, while other ADB staff and the chairperson presided. She was always herself, straight talking, with targeted interventions on gender equality outcomes in the bank's operations.
When a gender position was finally created, Shireen was not appointed because of a management decision to use it as a holding position for a male colleague with no gender knowledge whatsoever. Ever the professional, she continued giving support to ADB on gender.
After one forum session it was clear to me, Shireen was the elephant in the room — to use that phrase nicely! One could pretend she was not there, but she was. All the gender knowledge in ADB rested with Shireen and her forum.
I was very moved by Shireen's functioning as such a strong critical feminist voice (as she certainly was) in the ADB.
From what I observed over the years, I felt much of ADB's gender policy work was because of Shireen's drive. I once said this to her, but she immediately replied: "No, there were a lot of people involved, there were always others to help."
Shireen loved her work in ADB, and did a great deal as one person, one woman, in one place. She handled work beyond the scope of many of us in the Pacific or other multilateral bank officers would know. I recall her being concerned about a large Mekong River project. If she could not crack ADB's decision-making, the fault was the core of development banks: economic decisions made without care for social equality impacts.
Shireen recently passed away, after a battle with cancer. A heartfelt tribute issued immediately by the Multilateral development banks' Working Group on Gender, showed her impact went well beyond ADB: they said she was a "warrior for women" (not usual development bank language) and that through her work in ADB, "millions of women around the world benefitted".
One evening as I was leaving ADB's External Forum on Gender with Shireen, our footsteps echoing in one of ADB's vast entry halls — huge spaces with high ceilings and marbled floors — it struck me, a stranger to the place, that Shireen had been there most of her life, and had made a massive statement through her work on gender equality and women's rights in such a hard environment. There we were, just two women from Fiji in an empty ADB hall.
While she returned to her office to do more work, I turned and walked back to Shireen. There was something I wanted to acknowledge. I know my footsteps echoed in the vast space again, as I came back and I kissed her on the cheek and said: "I am so proud of you."
A little expression came over her face and she didn't joke or brush it off, and neither did I. I hugged her again and said firmly: "I just wanted you to know." One does not get mushy in the halls of the Asian Development Bank. But I was glad I said that to her.
Shireen Lateef was a wonderful force for herself, for women, for gender sensitivity and analysis, and an end to gender blindness in a development bank.
She stayed the course and made a path.
We are proud of her, we mourn her loss, we know she has left a legacy.
Farewell Fiji feminist friend, fun loving person, and great achiever for women's rights in development, in a hard place.
* This was initially prepared for the Fiji Women's Rights Movement tribute to Shireen Lateef and Peni Moore on International Women's Day, March 8, 2016.

More from Seona - this time about food

from the Fiji Times:

Guts in the face of scarcity

Seona Smiles
Sunday, March 20, 2016
IN response to the post-Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston price increases for vegetables I decided to review our food security situation. It was not encouraging.
There is the amazing self-harvesting tamarind tree that guarantees we will never be a household without imli chutney or a nice South Indian rasam soup.
Self-harvesting because perhaps the one good thing Winston did was to strip it of all its tamarind pods. The drawback is that you can only eat so much imli, and you really need to have something to eat it with. That was the problem with most of the edibles in the compound.
We could at least have a nice cup of lemon grass tea with whatever we could find to eat, provided no maniac with a whippersnapper didn't yet again reduce it to a stub.
And I can always flavour a tomato salad with some nice basil if tomatoes ever again cost less than a new car.
I've got a nice basil because when I bought a lovely mahogany sapling for our Christmas tree last year, the nurseryman felt such pity for the family that he gave me a free Thai basil.
In the event the mahogany was sent to flourish elsewhere and replaced by a model that is recognisably a proper Christmas tree and capable of withstanding the decorating activities of pre-schoolers and cats.
The basil, however, is doing beautifully in a pot on the front veranda and seems to have ambitions of becoming big enough for a Christmas tree itself.
However the kapoor creeper, that is a herbal medicine for relieving colds and coughs, and is also a good sage substitute, appears to have crept away from my garden.
In fact most plants that you usually can't beat off with a stick seem strangely reluctant to burgeon in my compound.
I have to fumble in the undergrowth to find even a few leaves of our shy curry leaf tree. The birds know where the chillies are and leave me only pathetically pecked remnants. And though we do have fruit trees, we must share with the beka, who now abuse each other all night over the little that Winston left.
Not that I never see much ripe fruit because every season children swoop even before the bats and pick them totally green to eat with salt and chilli powder with every evidence of enjoyment. Bleaah.
In fact, we've had hardly any homegrown fruit since about two and a half minutes after I got the food dryer.
The venture had an unfortunate start when it blew up with a load of tomatoes on board, something I put down to all the labels and instruction booklet being in Korean.
With perseverance and a certain amount of imagination I finally produced a semi-splendid collection of dried mango pieces.
Tremendously encouraged, I went to get more, lots more, mangoes. I planned to have bottles and bags of dried fruit that would see us through hurricanes, droughts and floods for years.
Not a one was there to find — the mango season had come to an abrupt halt.
Now, it seems, much else have halted in the market stalls of Suva although I don't quite understand why.
According to reliable reports, most of the vegetable production areas that serve Suva were largely undamaged by Winston.
That farmers should be making a bit more for produce that may be in short supply is reasonable.
However market vendors say they are being charged such high prices for produce they have to get stall rental relief and increase the price to the customers.
Then who exactly is getting the profit from $15 gobi cabbages, $3.50 bundles of Chinese cabbage, $6 bundles of long bean, $2 chilli heaps that are more like ant hills and why, in the wake of the hurricane have some imported vegies and other products disappeared or shot up in cost?
At this point I have acquired two packets of seeds, but in my heart I know my cabbage and carrots will not look anything like the picture on the front, even if they do come up.
I should just give the seeds to the ROC Market collection and let the real farmers do the growing in the hope that the prices will drop a little by the time the new plants are producing.
When, we hope, other supermarket products and hardware items return to their lower, pre hurricane prices.
I suppose that will happen around about the time hell freezes over and opportunistic price gougers get a conscience.
If you want to know the names of the culprits who have been fined for ripping off people, no use waiting for the Commerce Commission to tell you because their reports let the traders remain anonymous, and their names are missing from newspaper articles.
But go to the Consumer Council for their newsletter or to their Facebook page, they've got enough guts to let you know who's taking advantage of us.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Strong women in Fiji

This is part of an article by Seona Smiles on reflecting on cyclones and women and International Women's Day which was last week.

One of the most inspiring pictures to come out of the Winston aftermath is of a young New Zealand Army woman showing a couple of youngsters how to rebuild their home. At least one of the budding carpenters was a girl.
I was reflecting on this on Tuesday, International Women's Day.
I suspect many people think IWD was just an excuse for a gang of rowdy girls and women old enough to know better to storm through town waving homemade signs demanding to take back the night.
Personally, I had never given up the night and by the time we got as far as Traps I was ready to make a night of it.
But we had to go as far as Government Buildings and talk about some of the things that needed changing to achieve gender, economic and social justice, for women and men.
This year the rowdies gathered for a quiet moment of remembrance for two wonderful women who have been important in all our lives — Shireen Lateef and Peni Moore. They both passed away a few weeks ago.
Shireen worked on the inside to change gender policies and attitudes as senior gender adviser with the Asian Development Bank, where she had an illustrious career. She was Fiji's first feminist PhD scholar and inspired other young Fiji women with her discussions on radio and at gatherings during her frequent visits while she worked abroad.
She supported the fledgling women's movement with her intellect, expertise and connections and was significant in helping catalyse the formation of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement. It is impossible to put a value on the difference Shireen has made for women.
Peni was an original free spirit, who worked where her heart took her, from energetic beginnings with the Fiji Women's Rights Movement to the places no others go; into remote villages, troubled communities, prisons, the edges of society, the forlorn and forgotten; and made a difference. There was never a lame dog or a sore soul who was turned away.
She and her merry band of actors, Women's Action for Change, took messages of hope, conciliation, restoration, equality and justice to the most unlikely places. She was more remarkable than she knew and is sorely missed by the many who waited for her white and purple van to roll along their potholed roads to listen to their problems and help them find hope.
On Tuesday, Shireen and Peni were remembered and mourned, along with others who had stood with them and have left us recently, including Rachel Bhagwan, and those who left a little earlier, including Susan Parkinson, Ruth Lechte and Amelia Rokotuivuna, to mention just a few.
They are not forgotten and are part of a continuing project to honour their part in building our nation and to further their work to make sure all have a rightful place in that nation.

Should Fiji girls become Islamic scholars?

from the Fiji Times today: New institute opens for Muslim girls
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Update: 5:16PM A NEW Muslim institute was opened at Koronivia in Nausori today for females only. The school, which is run privately, will emphasise on teaching the Holy Quran. Students who graduate from the institute will be Islamic scholars who will be able to memorise their holy book. Not Apart from teaching the Holy Quran to the female students, the institute will also have sewing, cooking and embroidery classes for them.
Surely this is not the way of good education today for Fiji's girls. Sew, cooking, embroidery? Come on, what happened last week - International Women's Day - somehow didn't count!!!!! The best education surely is a comprehensive one - allowing girls to learn science, biology, languages not just religion and craftwork and learning one's place is in the kitchen! The photos below are of a better kind of education in Fiji - cross-cultural, multi-faith, boys and girls together. The first photo is of girls from Xavier College in Ba with sports awards. The girls in purple are from Dilkusha, one on right from Labasa.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A cabbage now costs $10

A cabbage for $10!  Are sellers taking advantage after the cyclone or just that there isn't so many vegetables available. Sorry for Anita whose photo is linked with the story.
                   from the Fiji Times:

Food cost worry

Ropate Valemei
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Record high prices of fruits and vegetables around the country has left consumers at the mercy of vendors.
This comes after the devastation caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston to the country's agricultural sector.
Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Uraia Waibuta said consumers should expect an increase in the prices of vegetables for the next two-and-half months.
Mr Waibuta said some of the areas that supplied vegetables were also affected by the cyclone.
"This is something that we didn't expect, the increase in prices of vegetables," he said.
What is happening now, he said, was some vendors were taking advantage of the present situation.
A team from this newspaper, in a market survey this week in the greater Suva and Nausori area, noticed a round cabbage or gobi — the size smaller than a soccer ball — selling between $10 and $15 each, and a smaller one slightly bigger than a tennis ball, at $4.

Watchdog receives complaints on steep vegetable prices

Shayal Devi
Saturday, March 12, 2016
THE sharp increase in vegetable prices in municipal markets around the country is so steep that the Consumer Council of Fiji has been inundated with complaints from the public.
CCF chief executive officer Premila Kumar said surveys conducted as a result of these complaints have found that prices for produce had tripled. She said suppliers and vendors needed to stop blaming the shortage of produce for the increase in prices.
"The Consumer Council of Fiji is questioning the market and roadside vendors over the sudden increase in price of fresh vegetables in the Suva to Nausori, Navua to Sigatoka corridors and Labasa."
Similar situations have also been noted at municipal markets in the Western Division.
"Long beans are now sold for $5 to $7 a bundle, okra at $3 to $4 a plate and eggplant is selling at $3 a plate.
"Many consumers have been contacting the council in recent days raising concern over the price increase, questioning as to why the prices of vegetables have gone up in Suva, Labasa, Navua and Sigatoka when these areas experienced minimum impact of the cyclone."
Consumers have been asked to report overpricing of goods to the council.
Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Parveen Kumar has also asked vendors to be considerate of people who have been affected by the cyclone.
"Government has played its part by waiving the stall fees for markets where people have been most affected," he said.
"There is nothing wrong with a mark-up price but it shouldn't be too high."

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Does a bure withstand the storm?


letter to the Editor of the Fiji Times: Paul Geraghty,Usp, Suva | Thursday, March 3, 2016
In the wake of the recent cyclone, there has been some discussions about the best type of house to withstand winds of such force.

Well, the photos published in The Fiji Times last week from Nanoko and Naibalebale in Viwa (24/2, 26/2) show clearly that the vale vakaviti (traditional Fijian house, known to some as bure) has done remarkably well.
All seem to have come through relatively unscathed, and the one that appears to have collapsed in Nanoko would have preserved the occupants well and not caused harm to anyone.
One vale vakaviti even withstood a large breadfruit tree falling on it.
Such houses are not only relatively cyclone resistant, they are less likely to maim and kill, as does flying roofing iron, are ideal in all weathers, environmentally sustainable and aesthetically pleasing, and their manufacture contributes to the maintenance of a tradition that enhances social cohesion and encourages pride in workmanship.
Yet I will wager that not one government department or NGO is urging or helping people to build this type of house. While preserving our heritage and using what is locally available is preached in other areas, in house-building we seem determined to kill traditional knowledge and make future generations dependent on hardware stores.

A song for after the cyclone

from Fiji Village: Ronald Jai releases song for the people of Fiji after TC Winston

By Naveel Krishant
Friday 04/03/2016

Local musician Ronald Jai
Local musician Ronald Jai has released a song for the people of Fiji after Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Jai said his song focuses on the people severely affected by Monster Cyclone Winston and calls for people who are not affected by the disaster to give towards this worthy cause.
Jai said he sings about everyone working together to bring back happiness for those who are in desperate need of assistance.
He said the disaster does not know any race or religion, and everyone should work together to move the country forward.
Local musician Ronald Jai's song