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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Social Protection Factsheet

March 2019 marked the sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 11 to 22 March 2019. The CSW is one of the largest gatherings of UN Member States; Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs); policymakers; researchers; campaigners and other stakeholders convene with the primary aim of advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women. The priority theme at this year’s CSW63 focuses on “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”

What is the factsheet about?

In our bid to ensure that the Fiji Government remains accountable and transparent to commitments pledged at the global stage on gender equality and the empowerment of women; the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) collated a 6 page factsheet on social protection system for women and girls in Fiji as a useful advocacy tool in alignment with the theme for CSW63.

This factsheet is helpful in the following ways:

  1. Provide a succinct snapshot of the various State-funded social protection schemes and programmes in Fiji available for women and girls under five (5) thematic areas: Education; Health; Economic & Livelihoods; Legal Provisions and Other essential services; and
  2. Contain analysis and recommendations for lobbying and advocacy.

From our findings, we note that there are currently about fifty (50) existing schemes spread across the 5 thematic areas targeting specific population groups such as rural, pregnant, ageing, employed and unemployed women including girls and younger people. From what we know, majority of the social protection schemes provided by government center towards reducing poverty and vulnerability amongst specific targeted groups. To address the unemployment rate in the country, there are a number of schemes that provide conditional and unconditional cash grants, allowances, subsidies, housing assistance, vocational trainings, limited cancer treatment, overseas referral treatment and subsidisation of the cost for kidney dialysis, volunteer programmes for retirees, micro and small business grants, food voucher and social pension schemes for older persons without a retirement money.

In reference to schemes particularly relevant to women and girls, there are various schemes provided by government targeting health which includes free public healthcare service across all divisional and subdivisional hospitals and health centers, free health check-up for school children, free medicine scheme, a food voucher for rural pregnant mothers, support funds for victims of domestic violence, Care and Protection Allowance and Poverty Benefit Scheme, Parenthood Assistance Payment, and Barefoot College programs The Government also provides free education and textbooks for schools children including free bus fare schemes to ease the financial burden for parents, guardians and carers; as well as a number of scholarships for tertiary and higher education that provide Fijians the opportunity to gain higher qualifications.  

One of the key challenges that FWRM encountered during the preliminary stages of developing this factsheet was the lack of access to information and assessment of gender Impact/benefit/ responsiveness of existing social protection schemes. In reference to women and girls, whilst the above-mentioned schemes are accessible to women, it is hard to establish progress since the data on gender impact/benefits for the schemes is not publicly available and this makes tracking what the government has done in the last five years to improve access to social protection for women and girls challenging as information on the schemes is dispersed in a disintegrated way via national budget announcements and the various awareness campaigns by the different ministries overseeing the assigned schemes.

In fact, we believe that not many women and/or girls even know that there are more than 50 social protection schemes existing. On that rationale, if women and girls lack awareness of the various schemes available for them than the accessibility will also be limited. A more important point to assess is whether improving access to social protection schemes is making a significant impact in reducing poverty for women and girls. For instance, the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation (MOWCPA) publishes annual reports that do indicate an increasing majority of women who are accessing schemes such as the poverty benefit scheme; care and protection allowance and the social pension scheme however, there is little or no review publically available to illustrate on how these schemes are benefiting women and girls.

Key recommendations for the Fiji Government

  • Transparent and Accountable reporting from the Government to demonstrate gender impacts of the various social protection schemes on the lives of women and girls in Fiji thorough assessment, evaluation and review.
  • Review existing social protection programs in order to develop a tailor-made social protection system that is able to respond to the intersectional realities of Fijian women and the interlinking nature of poverty and its impact on women.
  • Ensure principles of gender sensitivity, human rights based approach, transparency and accountability, gender responsive budgeting, inclusivity, equity and dignity is embedded within all aspects of social protection programs including service delivery.

click on the image above to download the Fact Sheet PDF

Ongoing research

FWRM is collating more information on other factsheets that will soon be published on this page as soon as they are finalised.

*Please note that this publication is not an exhaustive list of all Social Protection Schemes in Fiji but only a list of the existing State-funded schemes that the Fiji Women’s Rights Movements has been able to find and capture in the preliminary stages of developing this factsheet

 #socialprotection #genderinequality #CSW63