*This Story of Change was originally published in the Pacific Women Annual Progress Report 2017–2018. All values are consistent with that reporting period.
Project name: Strengthening feminist coalitions and partnerships for gender equality (We Rise Coalition)
Project partners: Diverse Voices and Action for Equality; FemLINKPacific; Fiji Women’s Rights Movement; and International Women’s Development Agency
Total funding: $4,800,000
Funding timeframe: 2015–2019
Four feminist organisations formed the We Rise Coalition in 2015 with the aim of growing and upholding inclusive governance, equality, diversity, justice and women’s human rights. The We Rise Coalition partners are Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, FemLINKPacific, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement and International Women’s Development Agency.
In the past year the We Rise Coalition helped organise the Fiji Women’s Forum and Fiji Young Women’s Forum. The forums, both avenues for national engagement for all Fijian women, held a joint three-day cross-generational National Convention in August 2017.
Coalition partners co-convened the National Convention and hosted a targeted intergenerational dialogue on women’s political participation. The dialogue engaged with 108 women aged between 18 and 75 years from Fiji’s 14 provinces. Participants increased their understanding of Fiji’s Constitution and developed strategies for increasing women’s political participation.
‘We, as the women’s movement, have very limited spaces to convene in such numbers,’ said Nalini Singh, Executive Director of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement. ‘This is a unique opportunity for all of us to get together and discuss common issues of interest, as well as to strategise the ways forward, given that this is the pre-national elections period.’
Participants at the convention developed a formal outcomes statement to be used for advocacy and to support the cohesion of the women’s rights movement in Fiji. The statement calls for ongoing initiatives for citizens of Fiji to enhance their understanding of the Constitution and commits to: ‘the highest ambition in Pacific Island positions on climate change and disaster risk reduction and response, to ensure the survival of Pacific people and the planet. Women-led civil society will continue to mobilise until the commitments for gender equality, peace and human security are met.’
Bringing women of all ages together ensured that discussions and outcome statements reflected a wide range of women’s experiences. ‘This is an opportunity to bring women’s leadership together to progress feminist values and principles,’ said Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, Executive Producer-Director of FemLINKPacific. ‘We must ensure that when we talk about women, we are talking from a human rights and peacebuilding approach that is inclusive of women of all diversities, including rural women, women with disability, LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender], young and older women.’