New Zealand pledges $12.6 million for gender equality in Fiji

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces the $12,6 million funding to the Fiji Gender Action Programme
(New Zealand High Commission Photo)

Venkat Raman in Suva, Fiji, July 13, 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today pledged $12.6 million to support Fiji’s Gender Action Programme which will also help the South Pacific nation to address broader issues such as child poverty alleviation and other initiatives.

Speaking at a breakfast programme organised by the Fijian government at the Museum in Suva this morning, Ms Ardern said that ensuring equal opportunities for women in all spheres of life was not only the goal of the New Zealand government but also her desire.

“I want women to have the right to self-determination and equal opportunity for employment, business and a place in society,” she said.

Improving diversity and participation

The Programme also aims to support Fijian women and girls, in all their diversity and to increase the voice of women in leadership and decision-making.

Ms Ardern said that a recent gender assessment in Fiji showed a large pay disparity between men and women, in addition to huge gaps in other areas and that the funding provided will be used to address these issues.

“Funding will go to the Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation as well as Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Women’s Fund Fiji, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, and UN Women. The Fiji Gender Action Programme (Marama Ni Viti) draws together support for a range of programmes into one plan and will receive a $12.6 million contribution,” she said.

The announcement was jointly made with Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta who is attending other meetings of the 51st Pacific Islands Forum now being held in Suva.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Syed-Khaiyum and Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Rosy Sofia Akbar (New Zealand High Commission Photo)

Preventing family violence

According to Ms Ardern, the funding will help Fiji deliver increased support to a wide range of services such as those that responded to and prevent violence against women through, programmes that support exchange and mentor female New Zealand and Fijian Members of Parliament.

“Women’s organisations have been integral to providing core services to women in all their diversity, particularly in reaching people with disabilities, LGBTIQA+/ SOGIESC communities and women in rural, remote, and maritime areas. This funding will help build capacity amongst these organisations to strengthen the Fijian women’s movement to keep doing their important work,” Ms Ardern said.

She said that New Zealand was also keen to see a reduction in violence against women and children and greater social awareness of women’s rights and gender equality.

Ms Mahuta said that gender equality is a central tenet of the Duavata Aotearoa New Zealand Fiji Partnership signed with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama during her visit to Fiji in March.

“The Marama Ni Viti programme also builds on my engagement with women leaders from government and NGOs during my visit. It has an ongoing focus on partnerships. It will support ways to build resilience, social wellbeing, equality of opportunity, and to support public institutions and civil society,” she said.

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Rosy Sofia Akbar said that a Working Group led by her Ministry has been addressing the challenges.

The Group includes representatives of civil society and Women’s Rights organisations as well as UN Women. The Working Group developed a Gender and Covid-19 Guidance Note in May 2021, highlighting the gendered impacts of Covid-19 in Fiji on selected sectors and important issues such as violence against women and girls, she said.

Speaking at a Ministerial meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji last month, Ms Akbar asked her fellow members to reflect on the gains recorded in the region. “I commend the efforts of our governments in adopting gender-responsive policies, laws, and practices to address gender inequalities. Most of our countries have legislation addressing the pressing social issue of domestic violence. Women are also making progress in other sectors,” she said.

Minister of Commerce, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Siddiq Koya said that while the government is conscientiously promoting the employment of women in the government, the success of the Gender Action Programme will depend on the involvement of the private sector.

“We have an increasing number of women employed across ministries and government agencies. We are also encouraging women entrepreneurs in various fields and tourism,” he said.

Attorney General and Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that his government is working towards better employment and business opportunities for women and outlined the efforts being made to ensure their increased participation as the economy recovers.

Human Rights Activist and Fiji Women’s Rights Movement Executive Director Nalini Singh said that there is more work to be done to address the problems faced by women including harassment at work, unequal pay, poor working conditions and workplace discrimination.

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