The gender equality situation
More than 51,0001 people have been displaced by Tropical Cyclone Winston, the cyclone affecting an estimated 350,000 people, of whom 170,000 are female. Assessments currently being carried out by the government will give a more precise picture of the damage and impact on women, girls, boys and men of all ages in the affected communities. Gender considerations need to remain at the core of the humanitarian response recognising the prevailing inequalities faced by women and girls in Fiji in their daily lives. These inequalities will be more pronounced in during and post disasters Overall, Fiji ranks relatively well on the gender inequality scale. It numbers 87 out of 187 countries according to UNDP HDI report 2015. For the Pacific region Fiji has one of the highest levels of participation of women in decision making, with 16 per cent representation in parliament, and the number of women involved in private enterprise as business owners is almost on par with men. Decision making in the private sphere however, is still based on traditional gender roles, with men as head of household, making most key decisions for the family.
Women and girls do the vast majority of unpaid domestic work, and women’s role and decision making in the family is often limited to the care of children and domestic matters.
Only 37.5 per cent of women participate in formal employment as compared to 72 per cent of men, with the majority of women engaged in the informal agricultural sector2 . Between 60 and 70 per cent of vendors are women. Women’s critical role in food production not only provides food security for their own families but for rural communities across Fiji. However, women in the informal sector are disadvantaged by lower pay which limits their access to financial services such as bank loans and credit, further restricting women’s economic empowerment. The percentage of female headed household is quite low and stands at 11-12 per cent. Single and windowed heads of household have 71 per cent higher poverty rates3.
While there are some legislative protection for women and girls, the rate of violence against these groups in Fiji is one of the highest in the Pacific. Overall, 71 per cent of women in Fiji have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by either partners and/or non-partners in their life. Overall 72 per cent of ever-partnered women in Fiji experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence from their husband/partner in their lifetime, and many suffered from all three forms of abuse simultaneously4.
Official reporting to police, health and social services remains low due to stigma, fear, shame, high levels of community intolerance, inadequate response from police and legal services, and lack of access to services in some rural areas and smaller communities, with limited options or support to escape the violence. Almost 50 per cent of the total female population of 837,271, is of reproductive age, and 9 per cent are elderly. Women have longer life expectancy than men (73 and 67 respectively).