FemLINKPACIFIC WPHS Report: Women Define Poverty

Labasa, Fiji Islands, 23 June 2010.
Some 21 local women’s club leaders from Bulileka, Cogeya in Bua, Dogoru, Naleba, Naodamu, Vunimoli, Vunicuicui and the Anglican Association of Women provided a multiracial perspective on definitions of Poverty which they believe the state needs to consider in the formulation of national budget systems in Labasa yesterday (22 June) as femLINKPACIFIC teamed up once again with our partners the Pacific Center for Peace Building to consult, document and broadcast local women’s perspectives linked to a peace and human security framework in the lead up to a community radio broadcast in Labasa on June 26. Photo: Sharon Bhagwan Rolls. Fiji Village.

The consultation also marked the start of our new research project “femPOV” in partnership with the Australian National University and the International Women’s Development Agency.

Data from Vanua Levu is being collected through the Naleba Multiracial Women’s Forum which is coordinating male and female respondents aged between 13 and 65 years from families in the settlement. Research interviews will also be collected in Nausori and in the Suva-Nausori corridor.

While levels of poverty can be defined by the clothes we wear, the homes we live in whether we can afford to watch a DVD movie (if we have electricity, poverty is also, the women leaders agreed is more than just the lack of Income or the inability to cope with rising costs of living.

Poverty, for women, is also the inability or the lack of opportunity to make choices within a family, in a relationship as well as broader decision making spheres.

The consultation participants also agreed that poverty is also the inability to access and having a say in natural resource management especially land management practices, while the issues affecting women living beyond the town boundary for whom social welfare assistance is in fact a form of income, because it helps pay the transport costs to bring crops to the Labasa market.

Torika Tubuna the President of the Dogoru Women’s Club travelled almost 30 kilometres to attend the consultation and for the women of her community, the poor road conditions not only affects their daily access to school and employment in town, but also access to the local market:

“The bus arrive there at seven o’clock in the morning and second at one o’clock and another one in the evening at six o’clock that’s the after the school bus at three and adult at six o’clock in the afternoon (and so) We need some help to sell our goods at the market (especially) as the road is very, very bad. We plant cassava, dalo, yam but we can’t bring to the market because of the road and the fare is too dear.”

Lusiana Matai, the President of the Bulileka Mother’s Club, is a regular contributor to femLINKPACIFIC’s monthly “1325” network meetings in Labasa. She feels that there is a greater need to support women’s innovations in economic empowerment: “(because) It really means that poverty is something that we don’t have to sit on and do something but we have to stand up and work on our poverty and get a better living.” Income generating opportunities she identified include handicraft production.

Lusiana who was part of a recent training programme coordinated by the Pacific Centre of Peacebuilding which enabled women to access business development training to qualify for funds from the Northern Development Programme, would like to encourage more women to access this programme: “I got some money from the NDP and do some selling in the Market . I am a Market Vendor and I know that it helps,” she said.

With information, says Lusiana, women and their families can be empowered with skills so that they can access the available schemes and programmes:

 “(and) people should extend themselves to go to some small workshop like this. They can be more educated and have some more ideas that they can extend their living, they can think of a way to change the standard of living they have. They can make it better.”

Anshu Parrina is the President of the Association of Anglican Women in Labasa. She is based at the Saint Thomas Anglican Church and women from the church also meet in small groups in Vunivau, Siberia, Batinikama, Wailevu, and in town. A combined meeting is staged once every 2 months.

Travelling alongside her husband who is a priest at the church, she meets women and their families in their homes and has found that many women now have to be more resourceful as a result of the downturn in the local economy.

Poverty for these families, she says is the inability to meet their family’s daily needs: “The husbands have been sent home from their job so  to fulfill their needs at home , the ladies are coming up looking for jobs.”

Women’s needs are very distinctive as well she said: “They have their own needs and wants because the husbands are not working and (so it is the) women looking for work. (Many) come and ask us to help them find work as housegirls, babysitters, something to support their family. We can only know if we go and  meet people and we talk to them  and they will share their thoughts with us .We see how they live and what other things that’s contributing towards their poverty,” she added.

Adi Sivo Ravuwale leads the Bulileka Village Women’s Group, and she is a woman who has been a cane-farm “sirdar” and would like to see a return to the heyday of the sugar industry, this, she stresses requires land reform measures which will also enable women’s access to land:

“Women need a piece of land so that they can plant vegetables, whatever we can take to (sell at) the market to earn more money to satisfy the home needs.”

Many families, she said are burdened by the inability to provide for their children’s education and food, “Parents cannot afford to buy food to them when they have no money.”

Adi Sivo also spoke about the suffering caused by the non renewal of cane farm leases which was the basis of many families source of income: “I can feel it out that there are many people around, they really cry out for their family for whatever they need. Children aren’t schooling (or) when they go to school, they cannot afford bus fare, school fees.”

Many of these families are being displaced, she said, simply searching for work: “We need the land to be used, so it’s better that we get the land back to them.”

Despite the long distance and the $15 bus fare Silina Tinai travelled all the way from Bua, leaving home before 6am, to represent the Cogeya Women’s Group at the consultation and spoke about her situation and the struggle of many mothers receiving a monthly $65 social welfare allowance:

“Vinaka , na yacaqu o Selina Tiani , mai na  Cogeya women’s Club ,au tara tale  tiko ga nai lavo ni  social welfare, ia e 65 na dola na  nai lavo e vei vuke kina vei au na social welfare  ia  sotava tale tu ga na dredre ni bula vakailavo mai Cogeya  vata kei na  dredre na veitosoyaki e genial ni dua tiko ga na basi  vaka gole mai Labasa , dua tiko ga na basi biubiu mai wainununa veimama ni ono kele mai Labasa na tolu na kaloko  na yakaveimama ni ono na matakalailai , ia nai vodovodo e  tinikalima na dolla lima saga ulu e na dua  na lako kevaka au lko mai Labasa lesu tale I Wainunu  au na via vakayagataka tiko e 30.dola na noqui vodovodo .Na noqu mai kana kei na noqu tiko voli I Labasa au vakabauta  esega ni veiraurau kei 65 na dola e solia vei au na social welfare e na dua na vula .Na dredre keu lesu yani , meu lako tale I nakoro au na lai jaji takatale na lori , 25  na dola na vanua e yaco kina na basi ki na koro o Cogeya .E 25 na dola , o ya na leqa se na dredre ni bula vakailavo  e tiko I Nakoro”

Silina hopes that the social welfare allowance will be increased to $100 a month, as a cost of living adjustment is critical: “E rawa ni solia vei au na social welfare e $100.00,me rawa ni sotava noqu matavuvale e na kena qaravi , kei navuli.”

Anshu recommends the need to support women’s employment through the national development and budget process. Jobs are needed for widows and young mothers, while Lusiana recommends the continuation of free education:

“That will help the family and also the children can have better education and have a better life in future.”

Rural women, says Torika from Dogoru, will also benefit from improved infrastructure, so that women can access local markets, as well as other services. 

These and other women’s community stories will feature on femLINKPACIFIC’s “suitcase radio” broadcast in Labasa on June 26th and also contribute to the collation of the organisation’s 2nd quarter Women, Peace and Human Security report. (ends)
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls
Executive Director: femLINKPACIFIC
DL/T: 679 3310303 M: 679 9244871
E: sharon@femlinkpacific.org.fj
Sent via BlackBerry® from Vodafone.


Red Dragon said…
Of course poverty has a female face in societies where violence which is particularly gender-targeted is omnipresent and where women with children are especially vulnerable and widows. "fempov" is a good acronym to highlight these issues. For far too long they have not been paid due attention in a synergistic way. Why would they have been? The Qarase Government Planning Committee for Justice, Law & Order was SWG9: the LAST of 9 government planning committees! Yet Australia's Foreign Minister and the Howard Government's policy of development aid seemed to see nothing amiss or awry with that order of priority? It spoke more truth than the Fiji Times or any Murdoch-owned newspaper/media entity would ever be capable of comprehending. It left women and children "out of the loop", vulnerable to violation and subject to almost daily attack somewhere in Fiji. The SWG9 will one day be held up to ridicule as a signal example of the maladministration of development aid and capacity building in a country teetering on the edge of melt-down. Yet.....the AUS/AID band played on.....much to the delight of their own consultants. The local members of this farcical committee were never paid a cent: simply offered Morning Tea where even the biscuits were frequently in parsimonious supply. It is an almost farcical demonstration of an inability to grasp reality on the ground.
Feminist nightmare said…
What's so annoying is that these slick Femlink types are so far removed from the lives of ordinary women in the islands that they may as well be on another planet. Sharon Bhagwan Rolls and the other heavily scented, over-educated glamour pusses who constitute the wimmin's movement have a lot to answer for. While they strut the regional and global stage and address upteen gabfests on women's rights, is the position of village women really any better? They still do all the work while their blokes sit round the yagona bowl and cop a beating when the turaga deigns to stagger home. For all the millions of dollars and words expended on "advancing the cause of women", what on earth have these people got to show for it all? Token platitudes and wardrobes full of duty free perfume. A total waste of space.

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