Mar 27, 2017 Last Updated 12:15 AM, Mar 15, 2017

THE successive natural disasters that impacted the Fiji Islands in the first months of 2017 are a clear signal of the future – greater climate unpredictability, persistent droughts and stronger cyclones, resulting in more complex and frequent humanitarian emergencies. Increasingly, complex and frequent disasters are confronting an existing humanitarian system of response that is not properly prepared to cope.

What is required is more transformative, gender-inclusive agenda for humanitarian response which will ensure the rights and specific needs of women and girls in all their diversities affected by natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies are addressed in national plans, strategies and responses - including disaster risk reduction policies. Additionally, women should not only be portrayed as victims of natural disasters and climate change. Rather, they are equal partners in designing strategies and agreements on how to tackle related issues.

As we reflect on the year since Sever Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston, it is time for reaffirming women as first-responders. It is also a time for government to not just commit, but highlight how they will work with women’s civil society to meet the representation targets in decision making processes.

 

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Women to the fore

Bank governor calls for greater effort

FIJI’s central bank wants to see more women on the boards of companies listed on the South Pacific Stock Exchange. Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor, Barry Whiteside, said there was a need for women of merit on these boards. Whiteside, who is also chairman of the Capital Market Advisory and Development Taskforce, said that there was a general consensus that gender diversity based on merit needed to be seriously considered at the board or top management level.

The notion of gender diversity on boards of listed companies had become an integral indicator of corporate governance, he said. Women hold less than 10 per cent of board positions and approximately 60 per cent of the companies listed on the SPSE do not have a single woman as part of their boards. “It is time that companies took action to break this glass ceiling and take advantage of this untapped pool of qualified board candidates,” Whiteside said. “These statistics also highlight the need for talent development and investment in leadership taking into consideration gender diversity.”

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Clark is out

UN appoints former Portugese PM

WHEN the United Nations General Assembly formally acclaimed Portugese diplomat, Antonio Guterres, as secretary general there was disappointment in many communities. New Zealand and its supporters in the Pacific had hoped for a better showing from former New Zealand Prime Minister – now United Nations Development Programme Administrator – Helen Cark. Eastern Europe had hoped that it would have a long-awaited opportunity to lead the UN and women around the globe had dared to hope that a woman would be appointed. But with the support of the all-powerful UN Security Council, Guterres appeared to have the position in the bag well before the vote. After the Security Council adopted by acclamation the resolution recommending to the General Assembly that Guterres be appointed, Russian Ambassador to the UN, VITALY CHURKIN, fronted the press.

Q: What would you say to millions of women who are disappointed as they expected a female candidate?

A: We had a fair process, encouraged presentation of women candidates. 50 per cent of women candidates. Ultimately, most important thing was to have the best candidate available, which happened to be Mr Guterres.

Q: Will acclamation and unity in the Council on this have impact on other issues in the Council?

A: I hope so, but I can’t say too much. We are continuing our discussions on even the most difficult things. Most importantly this sign of unity will hopefully be translated to GA and they’ll support Mr Guterres

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“THE fluttering of the tent in the wind just takes me back to that night,” said Eta Tuvuki, 37-year-old single mum. Her story is just one reminder that the recovery following Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston is not just about economics but also should ensure long term psychosocial support for adults and children “Going to the garden is a way we work together as a family,” she explained, relating that her children are traumatised and relive the experience of TC Winston when they saw all the damage to their home before their eyes.

Participation for Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery remained the focus as our focus group discussions continued with a core group of women leaders in Rakiraki who have been actively involved in our Women’s Weather Watch campaign particularly since TC Winston. Key preparedness priorities include food and water security. “When we were having our (village community) meeting last month, that’s what we’ve been trying to discuss to plant kumala for this cyclone season coming because that can stand us during cyclone and after cyclone,” said Salome Raqiyawa, 38 years old and member of the Nalalawa Women’s Club in Rakiraki.

“We will start planting it in November.” Lessons learnt from TC Winston include access to daily weather updates as well as information-communication systems which enable communities who cannot access radio stations to receive information to support preparedness, highlighted Raqiyawa, whose home is in a ‘broadcast black spot’ and continues to rely on femLINKpacific’s Women’s Weather Watch SMS updates.

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Unsung heroines

Helen Hakena: Bougainville, PNG: HER village Ieta was burnt to the ground on the 28th of May 1990. The entire village had to plea to neighboring communities for safety and security. Young women were taken and raped. Authority was in the hands of the rebels. Helen Hakena, now the executive director of Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

She has fiercely fought for the protection of women and children’s human rights during the 10 year long “Bougainville conflict”, being one of the key women leaders in Bougainville during the crisis who brought about peace. During which, one of the biggest challenges she faced was trying to influence both sides to lay down guns and join the peace process. There were multiple reasons and causes of the Bougainville conflict, compensation claims by the land owners of the Bougainville Copper mine which was not paid by the government of PNG, and damage to the environment among the few.

Then came the struggle for independence. In May 1990, Helen was seven months pregnant. She gave birth prematurely “as a result of being scared and frightened in an old abandoned bank.” She remembers two other pregnant women give birth in the same bank that day. However, they were not so fortunate and one of them took her last breath on the table while she watched and heard their cries for help. “There was no incubator for my son. Every morning, my baby was placed out in the sun to keep him warm – 

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