By Koroi Tadulala in Suva
The role of women in every segment of society is vital and this is slowly been reflected through more women contesting political spaces in Fiji.
This year recorded the highest number of women contesting the country’s general election compared to previous elections – and also the highest number elected.
The new 51-seat Parliament includes 10 women, five in government and five in the opposition.
The highest polling woman, SODELPA’s Lynda Tabuya – a talented lawyer and former beauty queen described by media as a “breath of fresh air”, being the fifth highest of the successful MPs.
Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni says this the success of women is “wonderful news” and she is expected to continue as Speaker.
A total of 56 women from all 6 political parties contested this year hoping to represent women and their issues in political debate.
Amelia Qalituraga, 40, of Banaras Lautoka, is delighted that more women stood for election despite politics being a male-dominated field in this country.
While casting her vote last Wednesday, she expressed hope that women in Parliament would be able to help out women at grassroots level, especially over the minimum wage rate.
“Working as a cleaner at the rate of $2.70 an hour hasn’t been any easy for me and my family,” she says.
“Na veika ga keimami kerea jiko vei ira na marama era na curu I Palimedi me ra rogoci keimami kei na neimami gagadre,” she added. (The only thing we want from women representatives is to listen to our needs and voices.)
With the rise in sexual assault and rape cases victimising women, Qalituraga hopes that women in Parliament will be able to make a change.
“Na levu ni sexual assault kei na rape sa yaco tu ni kua, au sa vavinavinaka saraga ni na rawa ni rogoci na neimami gagadre.” (With the rise in sexual assault and rape cases against women, I believe that women in political spaces will be able to listen to our concerns now).
Krishneel Vikash Chand, a 21-year-old student at the University of Fiji, says “only a woman will be able to understand the needs of other women and their issues”.
“I think it’s good to have more women in politics because it gives women more empowerment,” he adds.
Chand says the idea of women being part of the decision making process would allow women to be better represented and ensure their voices are heard.
Despite the positive response from most people about women competing in political spaces, some prefer men to address their issues rather than women.
Madhuri Nair, of Field 40, Lautoka, likes the idea of women empowerment but prefers men to address women’s issues.
“I think it’s good that more women are participating in political spaces, however, I want men to solve women’s issues because sometimes women don’t think nicely.”
Despite the mixed responses from people around Lautoka, it is clear women at the grassroots level want their voices heard and issues to be addressed.
- Premila Kumar, Selai Adimaitoga, Veena Bhatnagar, Mereseini Vuniwaqa and Rosy Akbar are included in the 27-member FijiFirst-led government while Social Democratic Liberal Party members Lynda Tabuya, Ro Teimumu Kepa, Salote Radrodro, Adi Litia Qionibaravi and National Federation Party member Lenora Qereqeretabua are included in the 24-member opposition.
Koroi Tadulala is a final-year student journalist at the University of the South Pacific. This article is republished under the content sharing arrangement between USP’s Wansolwara student journalism newspaper and AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.