Transforming the decision-making table

FemLINKpacific’s Rural Women Leaders Community Media Network consultation in Nadi. Picture: FEMLINKPACIFIC

“DIVERSE women need to be included in disaster committees because we have our own specific needs which we will be able to raise during meetings,” said Shakuntla Permal, an advisory councillor in Lautoka.

In 2020, unfortunately, we still have women underrepresented in all levels of decision-making.

This, despite commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and associated general recommendations, and the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA).

Women as first responders have contributed to preparing their community from supporting various responses and protection issues to leading recovery programs.

Since 2015, fem- LINKpacific’s Women’s Human Security First (WHSF) reports have unveiled the development and human security priorities of diverse women as a result of changing environments.

These series of reports have also highlighted the contradiction of commitments made at the national level to “leave no one behind” and the reality on the ground for many women in rural communities.

As we ready ourselves for another cyclone season, we are reminded of the many lessons we have since learnt from Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston yet the effectiveness of these lessons remain to be seen.

“We have an evacuation plan in our village but it’s not inclusive of the priority issues for all women,” said Mereoni Narisia of the Evangelical Proton Ministry in Lautoka.

“We have persons with disabilities and people with existing health conditions in the village, these are people that we should take into consideration while making evacuation plans,” she added.

We know through our district convening that women’s participation in decision- making is inextricably linked to their economic security.

As women are often first responders in their homes, development plans that are in place must not only provide an outline for the delivery of services but also ensure the social and economic conditions that will support women’s representation in decision-making.

Because how does it make sense to invite women to the table if you don’t provide the economic means to do so?

“We don’t have time to go to other consultations, meetings because we are focusing on providing an income for our family,” said Mereisi Mara of the Nasaulevu Women’s Club in Savusavu.

For the Rural Women Leaders Community Media Network (RWLCMN), meaningful participation also ensures security needs are recognised in formal spaces.

“When we talk about safety and security, we need to ask the people, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), people with disability themselves, what does it mean to them,” said Bonita Qio, executive co-ordinator of the Pacific Rainbows Advocacy Network (PRAN). Qio added, “My priority is around the strengthening of policies and reforms that can enhance participation of women especially in budget consultation spaces where women can be able to voice out their concerns and therefore they assist the Government in providing proper allocation to addressing their development needs”.

This is an opportunity to transform structures so that you are not just inviting women to the decision making table but making the table bigger and more inclusive of women of all diversities. Ultimately this is about a better human security approach –– one that is gender inclusive, community driven and will ensure women feel secure in their homes and communities.

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