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Reclaim the Night marches and VAW report launch in Fiji on IWD


Helen Thompson
WVoN co-editor

International Women’s Day was commemorated in Fiji with a series of Reclaim the Night marches.

It also saw the launch of the “Violence against Women in Melanesia and Timor-Leste Progress Report” at the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC).

About 850 women participated in three separate candle-lit marches demanding safe public spaces for women free from sexual assault.

In line with the IWD theme of Rural Women’s Access to Justice, Shamima Ali, FWCC Coordinator described this year’s marches through rural villages in Nadi and Suva as “decentralized”.

This broadening of the scope of women’s activism was important, said Ali, because of the prevalence of domestic violence in Fiji. Political instability in the country had also complicated women’s ability to seek justice, she said.

According to a press release, in the village of Dratabu in Nadi, about 350 men, women and children took to the streets.

The village headman, Malikieli Namua, said the event was emotional for many because it was the first time women in the village had organized to demand an end to violence against women.

“It was a significant event,” Namua said, “because it also involved a lot of our senior women – those in their 60s and 70s – who were determined to join in.”

The march in the village of Namaka had the support of local police who helped to organize the event.

Nadi Women’s Centre project officer Torika Tabua explained that “We have been working with the police in Namaka and Sabeto to try and improve services for women and children who have been victims of violence and I would like to acknowledge their support.”

Tabua called for better access to justice for women and for sensitive police handling of issues around violence against women.

The largest event, organized by the FWCC, took place in Suva.

“This has been the biggest number of people marching we have seen in recent years,” Ali said.

“It shows that our message demanding full equality for women is getting through, although we still have a long way to go before women enjoy complete freedom from violence and discrimination.”

Alongside the Reclaim the Night march in Suva, Penny Williams, Australia’s Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, launched the “Violence against Women in Melanesia and Timor-Leste Progress Report.”

The report provides evidence of the numbers of women who experience violence as well as demonstrating the increase in funding for programmes to support victims and conduct further research.

However, Williams pointed out that while Pacific governments have passed legislation to criminalize violence against women and opened centres to support victims of violence, the most difficult challenge was changing community attitudes.

“Too many people think that it’s normal for women and girls to be abused,” she said.

FWCC Nadi Branch Project Officer Torika Tokalau said: “On this day we remember those women who lost their lives due to violence.

“These women did not get the chance to live their life to the fullest and because of such acts of senseless violence- there are calls for safer homes, safer streets, safer nightclubs and safer spaces for women and girls.”

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