Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports
SPEECH AT THE CLOSING OF THE GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE FOR YOUTH IN NADROGA/NAVOSA
Semo Village, Nadroga on Friday 5 May 2017
The Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and training facilitators;
Invited guests, stakeholders and government officials;
Training participants and members of the community;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka, Namaste and a good afternoon to you all.
It is a pleasure to be here to close this very important training, which, I understand, brings together representatives from 75 communities in Nadroga and Navosa. Vinaka to the village council for supporting us during the past 5 days.
It is the wish of the Government, the Ministry and FWCC that from such training, you will return to your communities fully understanding the different forms of violence, its impact on women and children, and its causes. Violence can be physical but it can also be emotional and psychological. The training should equip you to be fully aware of your boundaries, and become strong advocates of human rights issues in your communities.
Most issues discussed during this training have, I hope, broken down cultural and traditional stereotypes and prejudices, which are common challenges in regards to the rights of women and children. However, you should know that these so-called ‘taboos’ are sometimes effective contributors to the prevalence of violence against women and children. These ‘taboos’ also contribute to division rather than unity.
Ladies and gentlemen and youths, in Fiji, according to figures sourced by UNICEF, 72% of kids between 2 and 14 years, experience violent “discipline” in their homes; 16% experience sexual abuse before the age of 15. Statistics also record that over 60% of women in the Pacific have been beaten by a spouse.
It is now public knowledge that the statistics the Director of Public Prosecutions, Police, the courts or social welfare services represent a very small part of the actual number of cases of violence against women and children; they are under-reported. Although the information we do have is limited, we know from anecdotal evidence and our deductions that the problem affects a significant number of women and girls. This is a very sad reflection of our culture and upbringing, which is why as youth, you are to advocate for human rights issues and counter all violence against women and children – indeed all forms of violence. As a new father, I cannot imagine any person being violent to a child. I cannot imagine standing by when I hear or see a woman or child suffering and I hope that you too will start to stand up for the rights of all Fijians to live in safety and security.
In Fiji, we know that sexual abuse occurs in all almost all settings - at home, at school, at work or in the community – and is often perpetrated by someone known to the victim: parent, spouse, relative, neighbour, teacher, schoolmate or friend. Together with our culture and tradition of ‘Bulubulu and Matanigasau’, it is more difficult to handle such cases as we try to keep peace and harmony in families and communities. Some prefer to settle the matter in an informal manner, especially if a young victim is pregnant as a result of the sexual abuse. Sometimes the victim is left suffering, without any psycho-social or other form of support. Sometimes she suffers further abuse from the perpetrator if she continues to live in the same community without support. Such violence must be reported to the Police – there is no excuse.
However, you have learned that sexual abuse has a long-lasting effect on children and women. It affects their psychological, cognitive and social well-being and development. Children who are victims of sexual abuse sometimes drop out of school, engage in risky behaviours, and sometimes abuse their own family members. Sexual abuse therefore does not only violate the victims and their rights, it also has an impact on society.
In the Fijian context, abuse of women and girls, in the context of sexual and human rights, is linked to their status in society and gender inequality. I challenge youth leaders, youth workers, youths and trainees to concentrate now on addressing these issues, both in terms of prevention and response. We must be a strong voice and support for women and children in our communities.
We are to return to our communities and influence our youth councils, village councils, religious groups and the ‘vanua’ and extend our influence to all sectors in the community. There is a need for a collective and wider intervention, and youths must become agents of this desired change in the community and ultimately Fiji.
I want to reiterate what our Permanent Secretary have highlighted to you on Monday that “we need to respect each other and if there is real respect, no-one will beat a woman or child or vulnerable person.” We hope that you have now learned more about respect for women and children and their rights, about understanding and about dealing with difficult issues which made you feel uncomfortable. This will challenge you and your perceptions and stereotypes.
As youths, you need to work with FWCC, Police, Social Welfare, religious institutions and Government to break the silence on violence. It has to be been broken down and now is the time. Together we can do this. We need to usher in cooperation and allow women and children to have a voice in the community. We need to create awareness of equity and inclusion. We need to ensure that women and children live in safety and without fear in our communities.
I applaud the work being carried out by FWCC and other players to raise awareness on this issue. As community-based people, providing support mechanisms in the community will have a major role in raising awareness in our communities, as well as in preventing abuse. Please assist and report cases which cannot or should not be dealt with by the community. In this respect linkages between formal and informal systems are important.
I believe you have all learned a lot and can now return and successfully detect cases of sexual abuse and human rights violations and address them in appropriate ways. When you return home, I hope that you will apply the knowledge accordingly. As youth leaders, you can also train or pass on the knowledge so that a child and women protection mechanism can be established in your community.
I trust that you will play your part in ensuring women and children are able to live in safety; that Fiji becomes a safe haven for women and children.
I now declare this Gender Based Violence against Women and Children training closed.
Vinaka Vakalevu. Dhanyavaad. Shokran.