The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is part of the Global Campaign for women's human rights. The first 16 Days Campaign was co-ordinated by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership Institute in June 1991.
The campaign begins on November 25 which is International Day Against Violence Against Women. The day commemorates the death of the Mirabel sisters who were brutally murdered under the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960. The last day of the campaign is December 10, which is the anniversary of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. The period also includes World AIDS Day (December 1), International Day for the Disabled (December 3) and the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre (December 6) when a man gunned down 14 female engineering students for being 'feminists'.
The theme for the 1997 16 Days campaign was "Demand Human Rights in the Home and in the World". It is a particularly important campaign because it leads up to the 1998 World Human Rights Day on December 10, which marks the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre has co-ordinated activities locally for the 16 Days since 1991. Over the years the scope and intensity of the campaign has magnified. A whole range of activities were organised focusing on the issues of domestic violence and child sexual abuse. The media was used as extensively as possible and the people of Fiji were made aware of the campaign and other issues through a newspaper supplement in the Fiji Times on November 22.
The momentum of the campaign picked up when 2 huge banners were hoisted at both ends of Suva City announcing the campaign. Television and radio advertisements were aired from Novemb6r 25 carrying a message to children "on protective behaviours and provoking thought in people's minds on the cost of domestic violence.
The message to the children contained the 8 Rules for Safety and these were reproduced in the calendars which were inserted in the Fiji Times bookmarks, stickers and posters. These materials were launched during Children's Day which was held on December 6.
The people of the West and North were not left out of campaign activities as workshops and public forums on child sexual abuse were conducted in Lautoka and Labasa. The day-long workshop in Lautoka was attended by headteachers, police, NGOs, health workers and members of the media. The forum was conducted in the evening at the Waterfront Hotel and about 20 people attended. Members of the panel included FWCC Co-ordinator, Shamima Ali, Senior Social Welfare Officer Western, Manju Verma, Senior Superintendent of Police Senitiki Raikoti, and Senior Education Officer Western, Vasu Maharaj.
In Labasa the workshop went for one- and-a-half days, and participants included nurses, teachers, social welfare officers, police and community-based NGOs. At the Labasa workshop, Ms Laisa Laveti from the DPP's Office conducted a very helpful session on the role of the prosecution, the laws on sexual assault, court procedures in sexual assault cases and other relevant issues.
There was a great deal of concern expressed by participants at both workshops at the lack of support for survivors of violence, the lack of community awareness on the issue and the extent of the problem, especially child sexual abuse. Participants believed that there was a great need for awareness-raising in the community, especially in schools, for community workers and government agencies. They recommended that appropriate law reforms be introduced.
They also suggested that effective and acceptable ways of talking to children about sexual matters be adopted. This may be in the way of developing'educational material on child abuse. Each participant contributed to the sessions based on their own experiences and provided various useful insights on the issue of sexual assault.
Next year, we are planning to hold more workshops on the issue of violence against women and children. For the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre and its other branches, the campaign was also used as a time to make the public more aware of its services. All the Centres had Open Days where the members of the public were free to walk into the Centre and educate themselves on what the Crisis Centres actually did. The Ba Women's Crisis Centre had its Open Day on December 9 and 32 people visited the Centre. They asked questions about the role of the women at the Centre and were happy to hear about the work being done and were appreciative that there were women who had time to listen to the clients.
There was a display of Fact Sheets, posters, bookmarks and pamphlets which were handed out to the public. The women of the Ba Women's Crisis Centre said that there was concern from the members of the public on the increase in rape, child abuse and violence. There was also consensus amongst the different people who attended that there should be more community awareness about these issues and harsher punishment for abusers.
More than 50 people walked through the doors of the Labasa Women's Crisis Centre on December 10 to find out more about its services. They included school teachers, nurses and members of other NGOs. The fact that men took the time to attend and find out more about the Centre was a positive development. According to Labasa Co-ordinator "people were impressed to see what the Labasa Women's Crisis Centre did and they liked the posters and calendars. Some said they had had negative thoughts about the Centre but since coming to the Open Day they have a positive image of us."
Like the Labasa Centre, the Lautoka Women's Crisis Centre held its Open Day on December 10. About 30 people visited the Lautoka Centre and learnt about its role and the services it provides. When asked about how they felt the Open Day went, Shareen, Bimla and Siteri had this to say: "We felt good about being able to answer questions from the public about what we do and why."
The children of Raiwaqa had an opportunity to watch the talented Women's Action for Change drama group on December 9. This Community Education Day at Raiwaqa was organised by FWCC. WAC performed a series of plays with themes ranging from the environment, STDs, women and work and parental responsibilities.
More than 100 children and several adults were present at the Raiwaqa Community Hall on the day and they all left laden with calendars, bookmarks, posters and book labels.
FWCC's activities for 16 Days culminated with a Human Rights march through the streets of Suva and a rally in Sukuna Park on World Human Rights Day. This was organised in collaboration with other local and regional NGOs who are a part of the NGO Coalition on Human Rights. Chief Guest at the rally was United Nations Residential Representative, Mr Romulo Garcia. An initiative of the FWCC, the Coalition is embarking on a 12-month campaign leading up to December 10, 1998 - the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The march and rally, which was attended by about 300 people, was the first of a series of activities organised by the Coalition. It was extremely gratifying to see local and regional NGOs and supporters come together to celebrate World Human Rights Day.300 attend children's day
The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre organised a Children's Day as part of the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign. The event took place at the Lower Civic Centre in Suva on 6 December and was attended by about 300 children and parents.
The purpose behind organising a Children's Day was to disseminate information and raise awareness about Child Sexual Abuse. The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre invited Fiji Television's Get Set Team - Inoke Bainimarama, Kalpana Narayan and Heidi Larson to officially launch a series of new community education material on Child Sexual Abuse. This included bookmarks, stickers and posters with a common theme: Rules of Safety for Children. These materials complemented the Centre's 1998 calendar and new television advertisement that contain the same theme.
The launch was followed by a Children's Forum which was hosted by Inoke Bainimarama. Fifteen children spoke on the various clauses of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, dealing with issues such as physical and sexual abuse of children, neglect, corporal punishment, the right to education and health facilities, and the effects of divorce on children.
The Women's Action for Change drama group performed plays focusing on environmental degradation and the exploitation of women's labour in the home. Other activities included the painting of a mural based on the theme: Imagine a World Where Everyone Enjoys their Human Rights, face and egg painting, games, dancing, video screenings, and meditation.
Thanks to generous donations by local business houses we were able to provide prizes and lunch for the children. All in all, the children appeared to have a great time with some expressing disappointment when the Day came to an end.