Statement by Hon. Rosy Sofia Akbar, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation at the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
Allow me to offer my congratulations and that of my delegation to you and your Bureau on your election. I can assure you of our delegations full support as we look forward to a fruitful two week of conferencing ahead.
Fiji aligns itself with the statements delivered by the distinguished representatives of South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and by the Kingdom of Tonga on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States.
Twenty years have passed since the Fourth World Conference on Women set out an expansive vision through the landmark Beijing Declaration. Fiji ratified CEDAW on the eve of the Beijing Conference. Fiji remains steadfast to this commitment and has achieved progress through the successful integration of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform of Action to guide the work of the National Women’s Machinery in two separate ten year National Women’s Plans of Action from 1999 to 2019, focusing on five critical areas of concern.
Fiji National Women’s Plan of Action has progressed measurably and my ministry continues to take a 2-pronged approach to pursuing true and substantive gender equality through:
- the women in development approach; and
- a gender and development approach.
At the national political level, the Fijian government is committed to pursuing gender equality through the integration and mainstreaming of gender issues across all sectors of national life under reformed, legal and policy instruments consistent with CEDAW.
Fiji’s first National Gender Policy of 2014, is a government commitment to the people of Fiji specifically targeting the structural, cultural, socio-economic and religious barriers to gender equality through specific measures and actions to be taken.
Under Prime Minister Bainimarama’s leadership,
- Since 2004, the budgetary allocation to the Ministry for Women has increased by 560%.
- There is now an annual voluntary contribution of FJD$10,000 towards the work of the UN Women in our region.
- Significant Government Investment in infrastructure development has directly improved rural women’s access to services such as: health, education, Legal Aid Centres, financial institutions, markets and utilities.
- Combatting Violence Against Women is now widely accepted as a national agenda item as a result of a strong government-NGO partnership.
- Through Fiji’s long-standing commitment to UN Peacekeeping, we stand against sexual violence and we assist women’s participation in rebuilding post-conflict communities.
- Our archaic rape laws have been reformed and are now based on Australian law which widens the definition of rape.
- Rural pregnant women are encouraged to register at ante-natal clinics in order to benefit from such programme as government-sponsored food vouchers.
- Social Welfare initiatives and State assistance are now gender responsive.
- The minimum wage rate has been increased for the unskilled work force in the private sector.
- The Fijian Parliament has 14% women’s representation, the highest in the Pacific Islands and has its first female Speaker of Parliament.
- Women’s role in climate change adaptation and mitigation practices is steadily gaining recognition within government programmes.
- Public-Private partnerships to foster women’s economic empowerment exist between the Ministry and financial institutions, providing financial literacy training and women-friendly loans for women entrepreneurs.
Fiji, like any other nation has its challenges and gaps when it comes to the implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action. Addressing all these core gender issues is made more challenging for Fiji by the additional layer of existential challenges caused by vulnerabilities to the exacerbating impacts of climate change, frequent natural disasters and environmental degradation.
It is undeniable that there is still a lot more to be achieved to ensure that the dignity of women all over the world is realised. Overcoming these impediments requires a comprehensive, multi-sectoral and multidimensional approach, and the Fijian delegation calls on the relevant UN systems and agencies, in partnership with Member States and regional organizations, to support the implementation of national action plans. This action must take into account the initiatives to promote implementation at the national and regional levels, as well as efforts to integrate commitments on women and peace and security into legislation and policymaking and planning processes.
In conclusion Madam, I also stand in solidarity with my fellow Ministers from around the globe in support of a stand-alone gender goal within the Sustainable Development Goals of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and that every other goal has a meaningful gender indicator.
I thank you Madam Chair.