NZ Women to Grow Democracy in Fiji
Methodist and Presbyterian women are raising funds to start a new programme for rural communities in Fiji.
Local partner SEEP (Social Empowerment Education Programme) will strengthen Mai or grassroots democracy by involving women and young people in decisionmaking and improving livelihoods.
Go Organic! Grow Organic! will also focus on improving agriculture, healthy living and sustainable land practices as well as preparations for potential disasters.
The three-year plan is to work in 20 villages and three settlements in Nawaidina, Nagone-ni-Colo, Mua I Ra, Yadua, Saivou and Ba Districts.
Each year the Special Project of the Methodist Women’s Fellowship (MWF) and Presbyterian Women Aotearoa (PWA) supports the work of a Christian World Service partner and a New Zealand organisation.
“Working under the mandate, Let the Children Live, this year’s Special Project promises to give a real boost to Fijians facing tough challenges with few resources. SEEP has put in place solid plans to build organic democracy that will have a ripple effect,” says CWS International Programmes Officer Steve Hamlin.
Already SEEP has trained leaders to run workshops and provide support to communities who want better outcomes for everyone.
Director Chantelle Khan is excited by the ability of the new leaders and the processes they have developed for involving rural and often isolated communities.
SEEP has worked with them before to improve incomes through farming, access to markets and in one village setting up a local store.
The next step is to meet with the village groups to find out what has been happening in their community and negotiate their involvement.
Many of the communities are facing tough decisions around extractive industries like gold and sand mining. Communities are divided and the voices of women and young people not always heard.
The external evaluation of the last three years recommended SEEP assist local landowners to learn more about government mining regulations and better understand United Nations commitment to human rights.
The new library in Lutu has offered inspiration to the programme. The women’s group in this small rural village was worried their children were failing at school. They went to the Bose Vakaro or village meeting with the proposal to set up a library in an abandoned house. Under the leadership of Nai a young mother, the local women take turns to read to the children or help with their homework. In its first year, the library has boosted academic performance and shown the women what they can achieve by working together. To the delight of the mothers, a number of the children won school prizes.
CWS values its relationships with MWF and PWA and their commitment to learn more about the projects they support.
Printed in Touchstone
14 February 2019