Fiji, 21 May 2019
Day two of the Pacific Feminist Forum got underway with a rousing series of chants and singing affirming the theme for today Strengthening Resistance as the movement for women’s rights in the Pacific addresses the roll-back on rights and the growing inequalities
“The solidarity goes beyond borders” said Fara Caillard a Kanak feminist and representative of the World March of Women, As one of the few representatives of the Francophone community at the Pacific Feminist Forum she shared that it was in the 1970s that the Kanak-Feminists declared the need for the liberation of women must be part of the political struggle, and it has connected with wider movements such as the World March of Women in order to together address the perpetuation of patriarchy and the neo-liberal capitalism which are reinforce each other:
“The 21st century is a time for feminism and women must live the life they choose” she said, and in doing so there is a need to recognise that for the Pacific feminist movement there is a need to work within traditional and modern political spaces:
“We must take into account that political systems also perpetuate patriarchy as they control the application of the parity system”
We need to start at the grassroots level to deconstruct the patriarchy that exists in religious, customary and traditional systems she said as this paves the way to regional feminist organising where we can share our experiences and strategies – from the Francophone and Anglophone countries and then together take our fight and struggle globally and make our issues visible.
Resistance is changing attitudes towards the LGBT community in a small Pacific Island nations of Kiribati where the family forms the strong foundation of community for Levita Levi of BIMBA in Kiribati, a support and human rights LGBT network:
“We can all work together for women’s rights, in the Pacific, just as we are working together in the response to climate change”
The changes in policies and legislation is reflecting government’s support and community support for the trans-community said Levita “it is a political will of leaders in our local communities to change behaviour and attitudes towards (all) women”
In order to build a culture of resistance Noelene Nabulivou of Fiji said it was important to explicitly building on the work of the feminist movement and to affirm that and to keep moving forward:
“It is about defining and redefining myself all the time – because the personal is political, we stand in our own experience and how we create our feminism. For me resistance is about refusing to comply with something that is not from love, health and justice. We have to then define what is not just. So the idea of a gendered division in society then it does require a refusal to comply” – especially when it is reinforced in society all around you. That is why we have 60-80% of women in our region have experienced violence”
The system of patriarchy has been built up over time and so as feminists Nabulivou says, we have to build up our movement of resistance taking into account age, ability and connected struggles:
“Life is not all about profit” she added as she turned her attention to address neo-liberal capitalism which remains propped up by a economic and development system. The feminist resistance is providing an alternative:
“We have communalism, we have consensus building. We have strategic ways of working as small island states.”
We have had to put up with militarism and genocide in our region but the systems are not working and we need to bring the truth to the systems “Don’t be apologetic. We have a culture of resistance in our region in our movement – it is the unfinished work of the anti-nuclear movement, the anti-structural adjustment policies, democratization and decolonization struggles”
We are, she added, part of an ongoing struggle.