press release - 14th September, 2017
“Women are the source and foundation of peace,” says Seruwaia Todua, a member of the Cagiveisau Women’s Group in rural Macuata.
Ahead of the International Day of Peace on the 21st of September, 165 members from femLINKpacific’s Rural Women Leaders network representing more than 11,871 women and youth of all diversities, have been meeting in Bua, Savusavu, Labasa, Lagi, Rakiraki, Tavua, Ba, Lautoka, Nadi and Nausori to discuss peace and human security priorities of their networks, community groups and clubs:
“Peace for them… (is) about protection of natural resources, access to clean drinking water, as well as… working together and communicating better,” said Adi Vasulevu, convenor in the Northern Division for femLINKpacific. “Women are the first responders and they are the ones that know at the end of the day whether we have peace in this country.”
The messages will be shared at femLINKpacific’s inaugural Women’s Peace Table event on the 21st of September in Suva in collaboration with the Peacewomen Across the Globe (PWAG).
What the Women Say:
“Peace is inclusiveness of diverse women at all levels.” Sapeci Vereivalu, member of the Koronubu Methodist Youth Group in Ba.
“Peace is safety and security that includes accessible services.” Bonita Qio, Executive Coordinator of Pacific Rainbows Advocacy Network in Lautoka.
“Peace is acceptance.” Joviliti Veikoso, LGBT representative in Nadi.
“Peace is to live in a clean environment.” Kamlesh Lata, Vice President or the Varoka Tavarau Nari Sabha in Ba.
“Peace is putting good quality food on the table for myself and my entire family.” Satya Kumar, Secretary of the Sanatan Nari Sabha in Nadi.
“Peace is important for my community because we have the right to access clean drinking water.” Urmila Kumar, President of Shakti Women’s Club in Tavua.
“Peace within ourselves will lead to peace in the home then to the community.” Shanti Sharma, National President of Shiri Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Nari Sabha Fiji in Lautoka.
But to engage they need to be meaningfully engaged in decision making spaces and processes – there needs to be genuine space made for them - a gap that remains as a barrier for these leaders.
“Women continue to push for increasing the number of participation in all levels of decision-making in the community, local and also at the national level,” outlined Fane Boseiwaqa, convenor for Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki for femLINKpacific. “Women continue to highlight that they need to be heard in terms of making plans for being part of the committee meetings or sitting in in any meetings that their voices need to be heard. Most of these women have been in leadership roles but their roles have not been recognised. We need to recognise them and include them and empower them when we talk about peace and security I think that comes in when we include women at all levels of decision-making.”
Talking about peace is not just happening in communities, but continues to be amplified through Fiji and the Pacific’s first women-led community media network, including FemTALK89FM’s stations Suva and Labasa. The two contribute approximately 800 broadcast hours a month of content about gender equality, peace and human security.
“The community media is more and more being appreciated by rural women because we use the space and opportunities for women to raise their concerns and come together to speak about many of the issues that they are facing,” said Vasulevu. “It is a non-violent approach and accessible to rural communities.”
“It is also providing the kind of information that will help them participate and know it is important to have their voice heard for development and to fill the gaps in their own communities,” added Losana Derenalagi, convenor for Nadi and Lautoka for femLINKpacific. “This includes issues like the under-resourcing of the police in their communities and the health services.”
“Media has been an important platform for them coming together every month, to continue to share their stories, having their stories being documented and having the opportunity to speak on our radio station,” continued Boseiwaqa. “For them that is conflict prevention - coming out of the issues that they get with them every month, to share their stories and also at the same time making recommendations to the issues being addressed.”
According to Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, the Executive Producer-Director of femLINKpacific is an example of how femLINKpacific is working with women leaders to localise UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which was first adopted on the 31st of October, 2000:
“We continue to localise UNSCR 1325 through the district convenings which support the production of radio programmes that amplify messages of gender equality, peace and human security,” said Bhagwan Rolls. “A key message since 2014, has been the call for a Women’s Human Security First agenda, one that ensures development and governance processes are inclusive of human rights and peacebuilding and supports the participation and leadership of women of all diversities including rural women, women with disabilities, LGBT, young and older women.”
Similar Peace Tables will be organised by the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) Pacific network members in Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu linked to the efforts to progress Gender Inclusive Conflict Prevention and Human Security as advocated by GPPAC Pacific – Pacific network which is supported by the Pacific Islands Forum-Non-State Actors programme with funding assistance from the European Union
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