Pacific feminists: Doing work that matters

Photo: FWRM/Facebook

More than 150 feminists, women’s rights defenders and human rights activists from 20 countries in the Pacific region are sharing, learning and strategising at the 3rd Pacific Feminist Forum (PFF) this week.

The 3rd PFF is the culmination of eleven national feminist forums from the region that were organised simultaneously.

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) says the three-day forum is a chance to reflect on and build from the actions stipulated in the Pacific Feminist Charter for Change and the Pacific Feminist Charter Action Plan.

Shamima Ali, Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) and Noelene Nabulivou, DIVA for Equality Fiji’s (DIVA Fiji) Political Advisor, have acknowledged the work of Pacific women’s and human rights defenders who continue to fight for gender justice and equality despite the many barriers.

“Feminist work is to change civilisation so it’s necessarily hard and complex as much as it can be joyous. It is tough and beautiful – that’s the reality of doing work that matters,” Nabulivou said.

The activists were challenged to continue to fight for each other and speak out against the injustices faced by women and girls in the different Pacific communities as Ali reiterated the importance of maintaining Pacific solidarity to change patriarchal ideologies.

“We don’t have to like each other, we don’t have to agree with each other’s policies, but when it comes to the crunch, we all come together. We’ll keep coming together. Loose the fear, if you believe what you are saying is right, you stand up and fight for it. Feminists go out with a bang, not with a whimper.”

Shamima Ali

FWRM says as advocates of women’s rights in the Pacific, there is an urgency of regional movement building with growing gender inequalities in the face of climate tragedies, tropical disasters, political instabilities, the continued impact of COVID-19, the lack of women in leadership and decision making spaces on top of the very high rates of gender based violence in the region.

Pacific Feminist Fund launches

Meanwhile the Pacific Feminist Fund, the first stand-alone regional fund for Pacific women’s rights organisations, was launched yesterday.

Feminist Pacific development geographer, Professor Yvonne Underhill, who is also a trustee of the fund, said many attempts to direct and increase resources for women have been made in the past, like the solidarity banking in New Caledonia and financial services for women living in rural Solomon Islands. These attempts, she said, offered the region success stories and lessons.

“We are convinced that this model will address the stagnating and declining funding for women’s empowerment in the Pacific. The percentage of total Australian Aid to the Pacific that was directed to gender equality and women’s empowerment activities only slightly increased from 50 percent in 2012 (when the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration was signed) to 51 per cent in 2017 (half way through the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Project). The Pacific Feminist Fund has emerged from the confluence of these patterns, innovatively thinking globally.

“Amidst the diversity of peoples that constitute the Pacific, the politics of indigeneity, race and climate change will continue to add further complexities. However, our understanding of gendered power relations in the Pacific shows that patriarchal privilege prevails to the detriment of women regardless of the hue of their skin, the superiority of their skill or knowledge, the quality of their education or their leadership potential. While it may take generations to transform this – the PFF will be ensure the pulse of feminist hearts remain strong and fuelled by resources that will make a difference.”

The Pacific Feminist Fund is registered as a Charitable Board of Trustees in New Zealand and will also register in Samoa. The Board of Trustees is made up of Pacific feminists, Yvonne Underhill-Sem, Teretia Tokam. Virisila Buadromo and Ofa Ki-Levuka Likiliki Guttenbeil.