The second interactive workshop under the “Your Vote Matters” Project took place at the University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Lautoka Campus on Friday 30th September 2022, and over 70 students participated in the activities organized by the University of the South Pacific’s Project Team. The project is an initiative of the Fijian Elections Office (FEO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji under the “Community Engagement Project” to promote greater participation in elections through engagement, with a special focus on youths and women.
While welcoming everyone to the USP Lautoka Campus, the Vice-Chancellor & President of the University of the South Pacific Prof. Pal Ahluwalia stated that “every country needs to go through compulsory voting as it puts forward public matters and helps in decreasing poverty. He further urged young people to vote sensibly in order to have their voices be heard”.
The workshop was subdivided into 3 parts, and the morning session saw the Chief Guest, Executive Director of femLINK Pacific, Ms. Susan Grey highlighting that “voting happens once four (4) years and it is an opportunity that determines the journey of our country”. Ms. Revai Makanje Aalbaek, Effective Governance Team Leader at UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji stated, “voting is one of the fundamental human rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is also enshrined in the Fiji Constitution”.
During the second session of the day, a presentation on “Know Your Election” was conducted by the project team which educated the attendees on procedures related to election day and voting. The interactive nature of the workshop saw the attendees engage directly with each other through presentations, group work and quizzes.
First-time voter Ms. Losena Divuavua, 20-year-old student at USP from Ba shared her experience of the workshop and said, “being a first-time voter, today’s workshop was very informative and the teachings I’ll take away from today’s session has encouraged me to vote, even though I had no intention of voting this year”. Over 70% of the participants were females in this workshop.
The afternoon session saw an Intergenerational Round Table Discussion which was moderated by the Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Aneet Kumar and the panelist Ms. Marica Tavakuru, Legal Practitioner, Ms. Alanieta Atama, Gender and Human Rights Focal Point Officer for the Alliance for Future Generations, and Mr. Mohammed Ahmed, USP Student/ Youth, which concluded that the empowerment of young girls and women is not merely a human right, but an essential process for equitable and sustainable development. It is important to encourage more involvement of women in society to ensure greater participation in politics and vital to invest in women to enable their political participation which would ensure global gender equality and a democratic government.
In his closing remarks, the Secretary-General Mr. Emosi Vakarua said that “I’m certain that this workshop today, has not only motivated you to share knowledge about Fiji elections but has also empowered you on various levels to discuss openly why you should participate, the importance of your voice, and what you think about elections in your sphere’s”.