"As societies build walls of separation between communities,
ICAAD works to remove each brick to illuminate our common humanity"

Report Sets off Flurry of Questions for Women’s Rights Review

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recently released an 8 page list of questions for Fiji, following the submission of a Parallel Report drafted by ICAAD on behalf of a coalition of local NGOs. While the Parallel Report mentioned efforts made in Fiji to improve gender parity, it highlighted major gaps in existing legislation and practices that have significantly hindered progress for women’s rights.

Commenting on the report, Nalini Singh, Executive Director for Fiji Women’s Rights Movement said, “the reforms are far outweighed by the existing and entrenched discrimination against women. The report cites the high prevalence of gender-based violence in society as evidence of the State’s lack of compliance to CEDAW.”

The Parallel Report responded directly to the Fiji government’s report to the Committee, and focused on CEDAW Articles:

  • 1 and 2, Discrimination and its Elimination
  • 3 Measures to Guarantee Comprehensive Advances by Women
  • 5 Sex Roles & Stereotypes
  • 6 Exploitation of Women
  • 11 Employment
  • 12 Health
  • 14 Rural Women, and
  • 16 Marriage and Family Life

In relation to gender-based violence, the CEDAW Committee highlighted problems with access to justice for women and girls, highlighting customary reconciliation and gender-bias in the judiciary as areas of particular concern, and asked for information from the State as to what measures it is taking to address the concerns. It also requested information on training measures for health, law enforcement, and the judiciary, and “any measures taken to increase the number of female front-line officers.”

The Parallel Report was drafted by ICAAD in consultation with local organizations, and submitted to the CEDAW with the support of Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), Citizen’s Constitutional Forum (CCF), Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA) Fiji, femLINKpacific, Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation, National Union for Commercial Factory Workers, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), Haus of Khameleon, Pacific Sexual and Reproductive Health Centre, Pacific Disability Forum, and Soqosoqo Vakamarama iTaukei.

#RaiseYourShield

This Civil Rights and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we’d like to challenge you to reflect on how fear may have influenced your opinions, especially of others, and to take a step towards the courage to overcome those fears. Why the focus on fear you might ask?

Famed marketer and author Simon Sinek in his book “Start with Why” outlines six typical manipulations used in sales and marketing, one of which is the use of fear. On fear, Sinek says, “When fear is being employed, facts are incidental. Deeply seated in our biological drive to survive, that emotion cannot be quickly wiped away with facts and figures.”

In the current political atmosphere, in the U.S. and around the globe, fear is often used by politicians and campaigners to polarize debates and to demonize marginalized communities, using them as scapegoats for the real economic, social, and political challenges that societies face.

Martin Luther King, Jr. understood how important fear is, so much so that he gave a sermon on it named “Antidotes for Fear.” It’s worth reading in its entirety, especially because it recognizes the importance, necessity, and creativity of fear (kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/draft-chapter-xiv-mastery-fear-or-antidotes-fear). However, particularly pertinent section was highlighted by King’s wife Coretta Scott King in her book “My life with Martin Luther King, Jr”:

“First Martin spoke of the many kinds of fear that troubled men and women in this period of change and "calamitous uncertainty"— fear of illness or economic disaster, fear of personal inadequacy in our highly competitive society. More terrible was the fear of death, even racial annihilation, in this atomic age, when the whole world teetered on "a balance of terror . . . fearful lest some diplomatic faux pas ignite a frightful holocaust."

"Some fears are normal and necessary," he said, like the fear of snakes in a jungle, but when they become neurotic and unchecked, they paralyze the will and reduce a man to apathy or despair. He quoted Emerson, who wrote, "He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear."

How, then, to overcome fear? First, Martin said, "We must un-flinchingly face our fears . . . this confrontation will, to some measure, grant us power. . . . "Second, we can master fear through one of the supreme virtues known to man— courage . . . courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear.”"

MLK Coretta Scott King Simon Sinek
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