As representatives of the Fiji Government gathered in Nadi, Fiji, from 25 – 29 September 2023 to collectively draft Fiji’s 6th State Report on the Convention of Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the significance of the gathering was not lost on the 38 write-shop participants.
Bound by a shared priority to support the work of eliminating all forms of discrimination against women, participants came from various government ministries to attend the write-shop organised by Fiji’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection and supported by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Human Rights and Social Development (HRSD) Division.
Also known as the treaty for the rights of women, CEDAW is a tool that helps women around the world to bring about change in their daily life. In countries that have ratified the treaty, CEDAW has proved invaluable in progressing gender equality in various areas, which include ending violence against women, supporting women’s economic empowerment, and ensuring access to justice.
Countries that have become parties to the treaty are obligated to submit regular reports to the CEDAW Committee to provide an update on the implementation of the Convention. The Committee of Experts then reviews each report, addresses its concerns, and provides recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations.
Officiating at the CEDAW write-shop opening this week, Permanent Secretary of Fiji’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection, Eseta Nadakuitavuki, said while the mandate to report on the implementation of CEDAW lies with the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection, implementing CEDAW required a “whole of government” effort.
“It will be a matter of pride for us as a nation to be able to report to the UN CEDAW Committee the continued commitment of the Fiji Government in the form of our achievements, especially with the backdrop of the (COVID-19) pandemic. Past reports were not easy to compile as there were hardly the capacity or systems in place to commission, gather and use evidence within government departments,” she said.
“We have made some progress, but more needs to be done so that the exchange of gender data can be made easier. With a strong sense of data that informs us of evidence-based realities, not only is reporting becoming easier, but it will be most valuable to plan and coordinate the national efforts on both the empowerment of women and on gender equality in Fiji,” she added.
Emphasising the importance of the write-shop, HRSD’s Team Leader Governance and Institutional Strengthening, Neomai Maravuakula acknowledged the participants' expertise, saying this was crucial for developing a comprehensive CEDAW State Report for Fiji.
“A comprehensive well, drafted CEDAW Report would help the Fiji Government delegation to share the great work that has been done to meet our CEDAW commitments. It is an opportunity to highlight how Fiji has also been able to meet regional gender commitments in the broader regional development priority/agenda. Through this report, we will also be able to identify any factors or difficulties encountered in implementing women’s rights,” she said.
Contrary to just fulfilling international reporting obligations, Ms Maravuakula said the Report presented an opportunity to take stock of the state of Fiji’s women’s human rights protection for policy planning and implementation. “We’re able to reflect and comprehensively review the measures that the Fiji Government has taken to harmonise domestic law and policy with the provisions of CEDAW.”
Following the write-shop, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection will work with the relevant agencies to finalise the report and seek Cabinet approval. Fiji’s 6th CEDAW State Report is due for submission to the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women by 11 November 2023.