Chronicles of a #FeministNaniJi in Fiji

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls
Posted February 26, 2021 from Fiji

Hello Baby!

Aadarsh arrived to his home here in Suva, Fiji one night after he was born. I say his home here in Suva because this a child who connects two oceans - the Pacific and Indian oceans. New technology works for his Dadimaa Krishna in Gurgaon who has set up the #GrandmasofAadarsh #whatsapp group. My role of course is to provide regular updates! And so begins a new journey of life for many of us. As a #feministnaniji I am of course first of all determined that my daughter i.e the manager of our home aka #youngfeministmother is supported and enjoys this new stage of life.  With her husband Ankit I know she will provide a guiding path for her son who has entered a world where so much is different, so much has changed since 1989 and 1992 - when I joined the ranks of motherhood.

My grandson also arrived via caesaren section. I'm grateful there is a new surgical wing at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital here in Suva since 2014. I recall it was still under construction when I chose to take my late-mother to the private hospital for her mastectomy. But I digress. My daughter and her husband were also able to afford to choose the "paying ward" or the Morrison wing. Knowing my daughter a clear budget is in place for matters relating to baby. Not many women are as fortunate. As I sat outside the maternity unit for several days and as I join the line of family members at visiting hour (limited for 1 hour with priority given to father only!). They are taking food and supplies to mothers in the non-paying ward. It seems the current generation of mums get the same list of "things to bring with you" although I think there are a few extra items these days.

Mothercare not just Health care 

In 1995 when I returned from the UN Fourth World Conference on Women I produced a television documentary "Mothercare" about the maternal health choices and/or options available for women. It struck me then and continues to amaze me that women’s health rights remain one of the most contentious issues in political spaces. There are two critical documents for women’s rights - The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international bill of rights for women, requires governments to end gender discrimination and affirms women’s rights to health services, including family planning and the the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. According to the Global Fund for Women Women and girls around the world, especially those living in poverty, face restricted or no access to information and services about their reproductive health and rights. Some of the barriers to sexual and reproductive health and rights include discrimination, stigma, restrictive laws and policies, and entrenched traditions. In 2020 the Feminist Alliance for Rights brought attention for the need to ensure that while countries expect a massive strain on their public health systems due to the spread of the virus, this should not result to decreased maternal health and increased infant mortality rates. There is often lack of access to healthcare services and medical supplies in rural communities as well as women with disabilities. We all know that women need health care more and access the health care system more than men - including for their reproductive and sexual health needs ultimately, collectively we must ensure our governments are providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and ensuring all women experience the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

My Recommendations: We all know that women need health care more and access the health care system more than men - including for their reproductive and sexual health needs ultimately, collectively we must ensure our governments are providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and ensuring all women experience the right to the highest attainable standard of health. But there is often lack of access to healthcare services and medical supplies in rural communities as well as women with disabilities.

My personal experience of embarking on motherhood as a much younger woman and conversations with diverse mothers since then only reaffirms pur collective demands for health systems that are accountable to us. Public health care systems must invest in clean, accessible and well stocked and equipped hospitals and health centres - this includes having well trained teams of health professionals including in communities and villages.

Equitable access to resources for women's economic security is vital for maternal health. There must be a way to identify women, including young women and women with disabilities who will require financial assistance when they register through ante natal check ups. This means also ensuring that pregnant women are actually receiving information and able to attend ante natal clinics - so subsidies for public transport etc. With economic security comes food security and affordability of sanitary pads and supplies, purchase power of napkins and other baby items. Databases are key to identifying where mums are and their sources of income especially for those who rely on rural agriculture and fishing. All working mums should have job security and maternity protection benefits including paid maternity leave and child care provisions when she does return to work - this will further reduce the burden of unpaid care work on older women. Safe community childcare services are vital. And finally (for now) Accessible information on maternal health care - via public and community radio as well as public television, pamphlets in local languages should be readily available at all health centres - information can support mothers as well as their partners/husbands prepare for the journey ahead.

​​​​The Journey Ahead

My new journey, my elevation to grandmother status now makes me personally more accountable to amplify the commitments made to women of my generation for women like my daughter  and her generation- including new mothers, young mums and their babies. 

We must continue to amplify not only our rights, or the rights of our daughters and sons. We must ensure that when the time comes our grandchildren will enjoy their right to equalitable development and sustainable peace that their governments have committed to - regardless of when the commitments were made. 

Comments 9

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maeann
Feb 27
Feb 27

Congratulations Sharon :) how wonderful! I am celebrating with you and your family. I support you with your advocacy that we must ensure that our children and grandchildren have equal rights. We as adult, has the opportunity to create a safe world for them, so in return they will take care of us when we grow old. Congratulations!!! What a beautiful gift.

anita shrestha
Feb 27
Feb 27

COngratulations

Nini Mappo
Mar 01
Mar 01

Sharon, Congratulations for your elevation to grandmother with the arrival of your family's fourth generation feminist!! How wonderful that this new blessing has also reinforced your commitment to keep speaking out on issues affecting women. Good on you. I found myself wondering whether the paying ward/'Morrison Wing' has any connection to the current Prime Minister of Australia....
Enjoy the precious cuddles of infancy :)

Tamarack Verrall
Mar 01
Mar 01

Dear Sharon,
First of all, welcome to this new grandson, and what a great photo of you shining, holding him in your arms. True to form, as you have been going through this special journey, you have at the same time documented what needs to happen for women, for women having babies, what women need when they go home, and laid out the challenge to the UN: Make these recommendation happen. These recommendations that have been sitting there for so long without being acted on. Too many UN member countries have been dancing around this, just plain ignoring it or hiding behind 'current or historical practise' excuses. Your information is so important for us to know.

Hello, Sharon,

Your smile on the photo says it all! You are a happy grandma to Aadarsh. What is the meaning of his name? I love how supportive you are to your daughter. Thank you for modeling that to us. Your days are brighter now with a new addition to the family. Your advocacies will be much stronger too because you will be taking the generation into consideration. Surely, we don't want these babies to experience fiercer storms. We want them to live the best quality of life.

Thank you for sharing this milestone with us. What a blessing! CONGRATULATIONS! What is grandma in the Fiji language?

Beth Lacey
Mar 02
Mar 02

Congratulations on becoming a grandmother, Sharon! What a cutie pie!

Kirthi Jayakumar
Mar 04
Mar 04

Congratulations Sharon Di (I'm shamelessly doing away with "Ms" and calling you di - short for didi :-))! Little Aadarsh has the most beautiful souls nurturing him as he grows up, and I'm very sure that he will learn so much from you, your work, and your wisdom! SO much love to you and Aadarsh! <3

Rahmana Karuna
Mar 08
Mar 08

yes, birth control access. quality nutrition. sex/sti education. abortion access. all so very important.
This writing motivates me to write a story on why NOT to import western/usa obstetrics, which in the usa i call "Industrial medical illness perpetuating industry". is greedy. arrogant. patriachal. and they don't know SQUAT. a joke in the midwifery circles.
please bring in the midwives.
midwives placed in poverty areas are a blessing.
thank you for writing this, such very important work.
my friend brought us the household word "waterbirth".
waterbirth.org check it out. she teaches globally, currently via zoom, to certify hospitals and clinicians to attend waterbirths.