Advocacy groups push for equality, end to violence against women
Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre coordinator Shamima Ali addresses the crowd of supporters who turned up in numbers for the ‘Reclaim the Night’ march to commemorate International Women’s Day in Suva last night. Picture: SOPHIE NORRIS
By SOPHIE NORRIS
Hundreds of people flocked to the capital Suva last night to participate in the annual International Women’s Day (IWD) march organised by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC).
The event, known as ‘Reclaim the Night’ advocates for an end to rape and domestic violence against women and girls.
The march began shortly after police officers at the scene allegedly tried to halt the movement if ‘women’s issues from West Papua or Iran’ were discussed. The situation forced FWCC coordinator Shamima Ali to call on Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua for his intervention with the police directive.
“We tried to explain (to the police officers) that this is a global movement, it’s International Women’s Day and we think about all women in the world. We still got told no,” said Ms Ali, who then contact Mr Tikoduadua after claiming police officers refused to consider their explanation.
“He (Mr Tikoduadua) apologised profusely. He apologised to all the women and those that came to join the march.”
Ms Ali said Reclaim the Night expanded the fight for women’s rights in Fiji and was an event that began in 1987 with just over 30 people.
“Today, we have hundreds but we must use it to plan for the struggle ahead.”
FWCC volunteer and outspoken feminist Roshika Deo says IWD celebrated the progress of many women in Fiji and meant more than just cutting cake to commemorate its significance.
“Women still have a long way to go and International Women’s Day means taking stock of the work that is still left to do,” Ms Deo said.
“Women want to see more anti-sexual-harassment policies in place because even though it is mandated by law, no one knows about it.”
Other volunteers at the event shared that the march re-energised the collective efforts to advocate and safeguard women’s rights.
“It’s not enough for us to just do our work in our own little silos. Right now, we have to claim our space in ways we haven’t been able to do for the last 16 years,” said human rights activist Noelene Nabulivou, who was also part of the march.
The crowd of supporters, including feminists and human rights activists, marched from the Flea Market to Parliament House.
IWD 2023 was also celebrated at The University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus, where staff unions and students marched in solidarity to commemorate the special day.
The Association of USP Staff (AUSPS) Women’s Wing said equity was an enabler to excellence and equality, adding the march was a time for USP to walk the talk.
AUSPS Women’s Wing president Rosalia Fatiaki said they were calling for real action and commitment from USP when it came to policy changes and implementation to progress women in higher education.
Sophie Norris is an international student from Australia who is currently studying journalism and communication at The University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus. She is a recipient of the 2022 New Colombo Plan Scholarship, a prestigious scholarship awarded by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that gives Australian university students the opportunity to study and intern in the Pacific region.