‘The goal for the Fiji Women’s Fund will improve the playing field for gender equality and women’s rights. The gains from the fund will combine with the efforts by the Fijian Government in these two critical areas.’
Hon Rosy Akbar, Fiji’s Minister for Health and Medical Services (former Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation).
Project name: Fiji Women’s Fund
Outcome area: Leadership and decision making, economic empowerment, ending violence against women and enhancing agency
Project partner: Fijian women’s groups and women focused CSOs
Total funding: $10,500,000*
Funding timeframe: 2016–2022
In Fiji, Pacific Women will provide $10.5 million of flexible funding through the Fiji Women’s Fund. The Fund will assist a broad range of women’s groups and women focused civil society organisations to increase women’s economic empowerment, end violence against women and increase women’s role in leadership and decision making.
The Fiji Women’s Fund was launched jointly by the Hon Steven Ciobo, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific (at the time) and the Hon Rosy Akbar, Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation (at the time) in November 2015. The announcement took place at the Muslim Women’s League’s vocational training centre in Makoi. The Muslim Women’s League is one Fijian community organisation that has received Pacific Women funding to operate effective, local-level projects to achieve gender equality. The model of the Fiji Women’s Fund recognises that local, passionate actors are critical in achieving gender equality.
Minister Ciobo said: ’Through the Fiji Women’s Fund we aim to provide flexible support to a wide range of women’s groups in Fiji both big and small, urban and rural, national and grassroots. This reflects our belief that empowering such groups means supporting local champions of change to make a difference in their own communities.’
Minister Akbar added: ‘The goal for the Fiji Women’s Fund will improve the playing field for gender equality and women’s rights. The gains from the fund will combine with the efforts by the Fijian Government in these two critical areas.’
The design team for the Fiji Women’s Fund met with various women’s groups, CSOs and other stakeholders to inform the development of the Fund model.
It will provide grant funding, capacity development assistance and support for networking and cross learning for women’s groups and women focused CSOs across Fiji, particularly targeting those in rural, remote and maritime areas that do not often have opportunities to access support.
Ms Puja Chetty, a Project Officer for local women’s organisation Ra Naari Parishad, can see the opportunities that the Fund presents.
‘It demonstrates that leaders are hearing the voices of women and support the work we are doing,’ Ms Chetty said. ‘Our heartfelt gratitude to the people and the Government of Australia for this wonderful gesture.’
*The design of the Fiji Women’s Fund was completed in the FY2015/16
Project name: Support for women’s participation and leadership in disaster response and recovery
Outcome area: Leadership and decision making, ending violence against women and enhancing agency
Project partners: Muslim Women’s League, Medical Services Pacific, FemLINKPACIFIC and ActionAid Australia
Total funding: $496,223
Funding timeframe: 2015–2016
In the wake of tropical cyclone Winston, Pacific Women supported women to be effective first responders and leaders in the ongoing humanitarian relief response. Government, NGOs and development partners demonstrated a commitment to take into account gender issues in their emergency responses.
Severe tropical cyclone Winston was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in Fiji in recorded history. During February 2016, it damaged or destroyed 30,000 homes, killed 44 people and affected approximately 540,400 people (62 percent of Fiji’s population)xix.
Women played a critical role in the response to the cyclone, both in the immediate aftermath and also as the country began longer term recovery efforts.
With support from Pacific Women, a number of organisations worked to ensure women’s rights and Medical Services Pacific deployed a dedicated medical and social services team, including a trained Protection Specialist. The Protection Specialist focused on prevention of violence against displaced women and girls, who are most at risk of violence in disasters.
During the cyclone, communications were temporarily lost with at least six islands and some remained isolated for two days following the storm. FemLINKPACIFIC quickly repaired its communications towers and undertook rural broadcasts and community education campaigns in affected communities. FemLINKPACIFIC also implemented a Women’s Weatherwatch campaign, designed to provide digestible information on the weather in ways that are accessible to women to enable them to prepare and respond.
FemLINKPACIFIC also worked with ActionAid Australia to consult with women in affected communities about the cyclone and its aftermath. Through these consultations, FemLINKPACIFIC and ActionAid Australia increased women’s awareness and understanding and provided support to encourage, enable and inspire women to become more involved in disaster preparedness and response in their own communities. A clear understanding emerging from these discussions was that increasing women’s participation in leadership in general is key to ensuring their participation in disaster response.
The Muslim Women’s League provided 2,680 kits to families containing basic household and health items like kitchen utensils, buckets, soap and sanitary pads. Some kits upheld the dignity of elderly, sick and people with disabilities with the inclusion of items such as adult diapers.
Project name: Support for women’s CSOs
Outcome areas: Economic empowerment
Project partner: Women in Fisheries Network–Fiji (WiFNetwork–Fiji)
Total funding: $85,000
Funding timeframe: 2015–2016
As an island nation, fishing is an important primary industry in Fiji. WiFNetwork–Fiji is committed to raising the status of women engaged in the fisheries sector in the provinces of Ba and Tailevu, located on the island of Viti Levu.
During this first year of the project, Pacific Women supported WiFNetwork–Fiji to begin building its network and developing its strategic plan for the next five years. The network has identified relevant organisations with similar objectives to approach, with the goal of recruiting members and sharing information.
The network collaborates with relevant government agencies, such as the Department of Fisheries. At the community level, it engages with partners such as the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas Network to raise the profile of women in the fisheries industry and to help identify women to participate in the network’s capacity building activities.
The WiFNetwork–Fiji and Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas Network have delivered a number of activities together to improve women’s understanding of, and economic returns from, the fisheries sector.
These include: mud crab awareness and planning workshops; financial literacy and business training; gender and fisheries training; and photo voice workshops. The workshops have enhanced the women’s understanding of environmental, social and economic issues associated with mud crab fishery, including the importance of sustainable management practices and enforcement approaches.
The financial literacy and business trainings were conducted in partnership with the Women Entrepreneurs and Business Council in Buretu Village in Tailevu and in Tavua Village in Ba. The training covered personal finances related to household income and making informed financial management decisions. The second part of the training addressed business operations, focusing on decision making to build a profitable business. WiFNetwork-Fiji’s gender and fisheries training has supported participants to clearly identify gender related issues and challenges within the sector. The photo-voice training also enabled participants to use photography as a means of telling their stories, highlighting the problems they face as part of their work.