Fiji’s commitment to integration of a gender perspective in COVID-19 response mechanism

Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), ever its inception, has called on the Member States to ensure gender equality. NAM has encouraged the Member States to take strict and effective measures to control the epidemic of gender-violence and gender-inequality and thereby promote the empowerment of women.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a multitude of challenges for achieving the goal of gender equality and women empowerment. According to the United Nations (UN) Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, the measures taken by governments to mitigate the risks to health and life posed by COVID-19 must take into account the specific attributes and circumstances faced by women and girls.

These include, but are not limited to their sex, gender, age, disability, ethnic origin, and immigration or residence status. States must refrain from any action that will exacerbate the already disproportionate economic and social impact of this pandemic on women and girls. At this critical time, States must ensure that policy decisions are taken with equal and meaningful participation of women from diverse groups and take into account the gendered risks and realities which are exacerbated by other circumstances.

Fiji has committed to an integration of a gender perspective in its COVID-19 response and recovery mechanism. Fiji’s commitment to the integration of a gender perspective throughout the fabric of its service to its people and its commitment to addressing the pandemic’s adverse impacts on women and girls has seen the creation of a Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Working Group and the Covid-19 Response Gender Working Group.

The Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Working Group has been formed to advance prevention and response to Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) during emergencies. It is led by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation (MWCPA) and includes representatives of civil society and women’s rights organizations as well as the UN Women and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Working Group has developed an internal Guidance Note to contribute and support an effective, gender responsive and coordinated COVID-19 national response and recovery packages. During its inception, Fijian Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa remarked: “To formulate policies and programs that are not gender-blind, it is important to understand the different ways that the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic crisis may affect gender equality outcomes. The impact of the virus is not gender-blind; therefore, the response to it should not be either. We are doing this to ensure that recovery is centred on the principle of leaving no one behind.” The Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Working Group has been formed to advance prevention and response to Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) during emergencies. The COVID-19 Response Gender Working Group will undertake a rapid/internal gender analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on all Fijian women and girls.

The GBV Working Group has developed a range of resources including a Resource Kit to guide frontline responders on responding to gender-based violence and child protection cases during COVID; Community based Response and Referral Guidelines to ensure non GBV specialists and those doing outreach in communities, whether for Tropical Cyclone Harold or COVID, know how to respond GBV and child cases; Virtual training packages to rapidly train a range of key actors on gender-based violence and child protection and how to respond/refer to cases safely and appropriately.

These toolkits were developed with the technical assistance of UN Women, UNICEF and UNFPA; Training modules for Frontline COVID-19 Health Workers, Community Workers; a 1.5 Hour Training for Helpline, Social Welfare and other Frontline GBV Responders; National Prevention Communications Campaign, TV and Radio Ads with influential leaders and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials promoting the 1325 and 1560 National Hotlines in English, Hindi and iTaukei languages.
The Working Groups complement existing measures in Fiji’s National Development Plan to combat the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination women face.

Photo Credit : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mereseini_Vuniwaqa_2018.jpg

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