Friday, September 27, 2013

On Tuesday the World Bank released the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development. For Fiji, the report focused on progress being made in the country as it relates to gender roles and the local impact of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Girls from Fiji believe they can attain a university education. In contrast, boys from rural areas in Fiji generally do not believe they will stay in school past the primary level. The report attributes this to the need for boys to contribute to the family income. This pushes them out of school and into the workforce.

It also says girls have less free time than boys. Girls have specific household chores that limit their free time. Boys, in contrast, have fewer structured household tasks, and the tasks they do have require less time. Boys also have greater ability to leave the house than girls. The report says these differences play a role in defining gender roles. This can lead boys into engaging in bad behavior and increase their exposure to drugs and alcohol. The report says this pattern exists elsewhere in countries like Yemen, Sudan, Bhutan, India, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Papua New Guinea. The report quotes a Fijian boy as saying, “Boys, they take their bikes and scoot off and roam around in villages here and there”.

Fijian girls are beginning to challenge these traditional cultural gender norms. While they acknowledge and admire the hard work their mothers have done in the domestic sphere, they seek better education and opportunities.

While the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, Fiji did not ratify it until August 1995. They were the 139th country to do so. At first, Fiji objected for cultural reasons to one part of CEDAW, and said Constitutional sections containing different rules for men and women on their ability to marry foreigners was incompatible with another part.

These objections were eventually dropped and constitutional changes were made between 1997 and 1999. CEDAW helped bring about family law reform in 1995. A civil uprising in 2000 stalled some iniatives, but the 2002 CEDAW review assisted in reviving efforts. In 2009, the minimum age allowed for both men and women to marry was raised to 18 years.

Since the introduction of CEDAW, reforms have been made that allowed for more equal partners, make divorces easier to get, make it harder for women to be excluded from the home, and improve the amount, and enforced the payment, of spousal support and following a divorce. The report notes that a 2010 review of CEDAW said there is still room for improvement in terms of inheritance rights for women.

Fiji has a population of 854,000, with an annual average percentage population growth of 0.6%. 31% of the population is aged 0 to 14. The average life expectancy for men is 67 years and for women is 71 years.

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