This week I had the privilege to sit around the table with 10 rural women leaders reconnecting after more than 3 months of lockdown and other restrictions caused by the COVID19 pandemic in our country - Fiji.
These rural connections have been important for these women who are not always online, who need water not just for ritual handwashing but daily health, sanitation and hygiene priorities.
This connection has been an important reminder that our communities require robust social, economic and political infrastructures that ensure the long term recovery is inclusive and tackles some of the underlying issues including persistent gender based inequality and discrimination:
10 June 2020
“Women need to be part of the change in what will be a new norm as our country emerges from the COVID19 crisis” says Adivasu Levu the Executive Director of Transcend Oceania one of the 13 women-led civil society organisations who form the Shifting the Power Coalition.
She was speaking at the start of the “Women’s Leadership and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action” workshop underway in Labasa in collaboration with ActionAid Australia. The workshop is part of the Strengthening Diverse Women’s Leadership in Humanitarian Action project which is supported by the Australian Government through Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Programme. ActionAid Australia as a women’s rights focused humanitarian organisation supports Coalition members to engage in the humanitarian system.
The ten diverse women who are participating in the workshop, bring together the views and experiences of 1600 local women leaders, young women, women with disabilities, women farmers and market vendors from across the 3 provinces of Vanua Levu.
The workshop is part of the overall commitment of STP Coalition to address the persistent barriers to women’s participation and to shift the power to achieve gender equality including during local and national disasters and humanitarian crises.
“As the representative of rural women from 54 clubs of the Soqosoqo Vakamarama in Bua.I am happy about this coalition approach,” says Adi Ana Ramatai, a retired school teacher, “Particularly as all the views of young and older women as well as persons with disabilities are often neglected at the village level”
“The inclusion of and leadership by persons with disabilities in local crisis response is vital as we deal with greater unpredictability, not only because of COVID19 but also because of the impact of climate change” says Jay Nasilasila the representative of the Labasa branch of the Fiji Disabled People’s Federation.
The workshop is an important initial step to provide the leaders with an understanding of the humanitarian coordination systems and opportunities for engagement says Adivasu Levu:
“This is an opportunity to assess the gender impacts of recent and current health crises including COVID19. It is providing women leaders the space to deliberate together on the best approaches to extend the training and raise further awareness on prevention measures as well as identify the sub-national priorities in the longer term social and economic recovery.”
The Shifting the Power Coalition (StP Coalition) was established in 2016.It brings together 13 women-led civil society organisations in six countries working together to support diverse women’s leadership in humanitarian action at local, national and regional levels. It is the only women-led regional alliance focused on strengthening the collective power, influence and leadership of diverse Pacific women in responding to disasters and climate change. The Coalition focuses on strengthening women’s capacity to engage in policy and decision making, driving evidence-based and women-led innovations from the region, as well as engaging in national and regional advocacy.