Gavoka slams Fiji’s ‘shameless’ inaction over women’s rights

International Women's Day in Fiji
International Women's Day ... 42 percent of Fiji boards or executive committees of for-profit or non-profit organisations or government agencies have no women at all." Image: The Fiji Times

By Talebula Kate in Suva

Women’s participation in decision-making is fundamental to improving gender equality but despite making up half of Fiji’s population, representation at all levels of leadership for women is severely lacking, says an opposition political leader.

The leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), Viliame Gavoka, said this in his statement as the international community commemorates International Women’s Day today.

Gavoka said this year’s theme reminded Fijians that bias made it difficult for women to move ahead.

International Women's Day
International Women’s Day

He said knowing that bias existed was not enough, action was needed to level the playing field.

Gavoka said that for far too long, Fiji had continued to “shamelessly lag behind” in protecting and promoting women’s rights and their peace-building expertise.

“A study carried out by the Fiji Women Right’s Movement reveals that 42 percent of Fiji boards or executive committees of for-profit or non-profit organisations or government agencies have no women at all and 26 percent have less than one-third female participation,” Gavoka said.

“The research on gender diversity and equality on boards looked at 192 board members across 38 government-controlled organisations and state-owned enterprises,” he said.

“The purpose of the research was to determine the level of women’s representation in the boards of the 38 entities.”

Lack of diversity
He said the research also identified challenges that limited the participation of women in Fiji’s leadership, such as lack of diversity and opportunity for women elected to preside as board chair.

“According to the research, women hold only 18 percent of board chair positions and sometimes it is the same women appointed as chair of boards in multiple organisations,” he said.

“In many cases, the same people are on multiple boards. This curtails the opportunities for others to join, contribute and gain board experience.

“Ensuring that women are better represented on boards is important to dismantle patriarchal ideals that are heavily entrenched into our society and limit women’s participation in decision-making.

“There is strong evidence that a gender-equal and diverse governance board improves accountability and diversifies the expertise, knowledge and skills available.”

Gavoka said that when SODELPA would be voted into government, they would ensure to “break barriers and accelerate progress”, including:

  • setting specific targets and timelines to achieve gender balance in all branches of government and at all levels through temporary special measures such as quotas and appointments; and
  • encouraging political parties to nominate equal numbers of women and men as candidates and implement policies and programmes promoting women’s leadership.

“On this year’s International Women’s Day, we should also pause and reflect on the sacrifices of our women in all facets of society despite the challenges they’ve endured to bring change and progress.”

Republished with permission.

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