The IWLP program is targeted at developing and enhancing young women and girls’ leadership and capacity to create positive change in their communities. Since 2003, FWRM has worked with young women and girls in Fiji aged 10 – 25 years and supported the development of similar programmes in the Pacific. These include women’s organizations such as the Young Christian Women’s Association (YWCA) in the Solomon Islands, Kup Women for Peace in Papua New Guinea and Tonga’s Women for Action.
The program involves working closely with young women and girls in developing their leadership and advocacy skills at the national, regional and international foras through capacity-building workshops; design, production and dissemination of information educational and communication materials and facilitating the inclusion of young Pacific women at policy making forums.
FWRM works with a diversity of young women (including young trans-women, young women with disabilities) and girls (Deaf and hearing girls between 10-17 years) to mobilize a critical mass of such marginalized communities to tackle women’s issues at all levels of political and social activity.
Currently there are four main components of the IWLP with an addition of a Women in Ageing programme in the pipeline.
Young girls face double discrimination: for being very young and female. They are often left vulnerable with their issues and concerns overlooked. Their right to voice their opinions are often hindered by various social barriers evidenced from FWRM findings.These are further exacerbated by disasters and times of crisis where girls living with disabilities would face a further disadvantage to fully realising their human rights.
Since 2007, FWRM has linked the celebration of International Women’s Day to an event that targets girls. This has led to the establishment of a GROW. INSPIRE. RELATE.LEAD. SUCCEED-GIRLS programme, a pioneering Girls feminist programme in the Pacific.
The GIRLS programme has increased visibility of the girl child through innovative means to engage and introduce young girls between the ages of 10-17 years to human rights education, gender, feminism and sports that are traditionally male dominated such as soccer, touch rugby and sevens rugby.
Some of the GIRLS activities include Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights sessions, writing and video editing skills workshops, Day Camps, themed weekend camps and using art as a form of activism.
Currently, the GIRLS programme is working with Deaf and Hearing girls around the Central division of Fiji. The programme also hosts an annual Girls Forum with the hopes of reaching girls living outside the central division that will in turn substantiate a collective national girl-led advocacy network.
The program hopes to address issues relating to intergenerational dialogue and creating a culture of understanding between girls, young women and women within their communities.
The Emerging Leaders Forum (ELF) is a year-long training program for 18-25 year old women in Fiji that began in 2003 under the then Young Women's Leadership Program banner. The training consists of workshops and retreats aimed at developing young women’s ability to critically analyze issues and develop advocacy skills.
Topics such as gender, feminism, human rights, trade, the economy, the environment, gender based violence, sexual reproductive health and rights and women’s participation in decision-making are discussed and analyzed using a feminist and human rights based approach. To date there have been six cohorts of the ELF programme and 96 young women graduates. The last cohort was in 2015.
There are plans to continue the programme in the near future as we try and ensure young women are recognised and claim space within their own communities to have their opinions heard and issues addressed.
As of 2015 a total of 96 young women have graduated from the Emerging Leaders Program equipped with a knowledge and understanding of Feminism and Women’s Human Rights, Women in Leadership, Women & Culture and Religion, Women in Business, and Women & the Environment, Tourism, Media, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Investment and Poverty, Globalisation, Trade and with a deeper understanding of Violence Against Women.
The YWLP has hosted the ELF programme since 2004 and these graduates have formed the Emerging Forum Alumni (ELFA).
The ELFA has also grown from strength to strength with an established Secretariat and the successful implementation of projects and advocacy campaigns in raising awareness on the needs of young women, adding a feminist critique and creating positive change in their communities.
In the 17-year herstory of the ELF, FWRM has learnt that one of the key success of the programme is that the Movement has continued to offer ongoing support for the ELF graduates to remain connected to each other as well as support for them to carry out their own advocacy and activities as a young women’s collective.
This has also allowed for the young women graduates themselves to exert and practice their leadership in the coordination of the group and the committees entailed as well as in the implementation of the groups various activities and campaigns.
The ongoing support for young women’s safe spaces, leadership and initiatives adds to the sustainability of FWRM and the wider Fiji women’s movement through the thriving young women’s group.
The graduates of the ELF have formed a network of young women that advocates the concerns of young women in the personal and public spheres with several joining FWRM as full-time staff members over the years.
The current ELFA Secretariat elected in 2019, consists of Nandni Vandhana as Coordinator, Artika Singh as Deputy Coordinator and Tavai Bale as its Secretary. The Treasurer position is currently vacant which will be confirmed at the ELFA Strategic Planning in 2020. Losana Tuiraviravi who is also an ELF graduate is the liaison FWRM staff working alongside ELFA.
FWRM believes that any process without young women's full engagement in national or local elections is not a democratic process. Strengthening the capacity of young women in various political spaces is democracy in action and encourages young women to bring about transformative change in their communities.
The IWLP has provided a Secretariat role that strives to facilitate constructive alliances between young women-led organizations to conceptualize the Fiji Young Women's Forum. This builds on the rich tradition of activism and feminism by Fijian women throughout our national herstory.
The Fiji Young Women’s Forum (FYWF) is co-convened by the Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni (ELFA) and Young Women Leadership Team- FemLINK Pacific. These groups have demonstrated great leadership and solidarity in young Fijian women by producing three progressive outcome statements in three forums in response to barriers to young women's meaningful participation and representation in Fiji's democratization process.
The FYWF recognizes the unique young women-led space that fosters solidarity amongst a diversity of young women which includes young lesbian, bisexual transgender, queer and intersex persons, young women with disabilities, young women of both religious and non-religious beliefs, aspiring young women politicians, young women sex workers, rural young women and young women mental health consumers.
Recognizing that young women have been marginalized from the 2012-2014 democratisation process has motivated FYWF to affirm that Personal is Political, consequently creating visibility in this process. The FYWF has provided a strategic platform to motivate young women voters in the 2014 Elections to raise awareness and the ongoing work to enhance active citizenship to hold national leaders accountable.
FWRM’s contributions to the develop the Pacific Women’s Movement over the past 5 years has been evaluated as being a valuable way to leverage international support for women living in the Pacific. The ability to mobilise individuals and organizations around the region to collaborate at pre-and post-conference workshops has also had a positive impact for young women in the Pacific.
FWRM works in partnership with networks keen on advancing gender equality, the rule of law, human rights, and democracy in Fiji. Such partnership include Pacific Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights (SRHR) Feminist Coalition, Pacific Partnership on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (PPGCCSD), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Development Alternatives for Women for Women in a New Era (DAWN) and the Pacific Young Women Leadership Alliance (PYWLA).
Currently YWLP is the secretariat of the Pacific Young Women Leadership Alliance. The PYWLA composed of regional and UN organizations, including: the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (current secretariat), Commonwealth Youth Programme, FemLink Pacific, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Pacific Youth Council, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, YWCA, UNFPA, UNWOMEN and UNICEF.
The aim of the alliance is to provide a platform for young women in-country to influence policies. The alliance members have existing commitments, partnership and programmes addressing issues critical to young women, but by working together more cohesively, they hope to further amplify young women’s voices, support their access to decision making forums and promote a young women-inclusive sustainable development strategy for the region.
To prove that there is progress in supporting young women's leadership and inclusion in decision making, FWRM and PYWLA successfully lobbied the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Advisory Board (PWSPD) to have young women included on the Pacific Women board. Yoshiko Capelle has been appointed onto the board an is expected to articulate the views and experiences of Pacific young women and girls.