SOLOMON ISLANDS: Nadi Rural Women Leaders Engage in Interactive Policy Dialogue

Thursday, February 10, 2011
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Solomon Is.
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Disability access, environment management, women and children's health issues, and improving health service delivery to senior citizens topped the list of human security and development priorities raised by twenty three local women leaders in Nadi during a new interactive policy dialogue with the Nadi Town Council Special Administrator Aisea Tuidraki and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Terence O'Neill this week.

It was facilitated by FemLINKPACIFIC as part of its Women, Peace and Human Security programme.

The interactive dialogue covered a range of priority issues documented in the Nadi Women, Peace and Human Security Local Action Plan developed in May 2010, and monthly Women, Peace and Human Security consultations convened by FemLINKPACIFIC.

Representatives of the Nadi Arya Samaj Women's Club, Nadi Muslim Women's League, Nadi Zone Soqosoqo Vakamarama I Taukei, Fiji Disabled People's Association, Nadi Women's Council, Nadi Tikina Soqosoqo Vakamarama I Taukei, Sanatan Nari Sabha Nadi and Shub Shanti Women's Club heard about the council's commitment to comply with international norms and conventions to improve access for persons with disability, the plan for the construction of affordable accommodation for market vendors, as well as the broader development master plan for Nadi in response to the concerns they were able to raise.

Satya Kumar, the secretary of the Shub Shanti Women's Group, recommended more women and children friendly services: “Mine is a health issue. Whether we (women) come from Nadi town or outside Nadi, we need to have access to clean and well maintained toilets. Secondly, most of us are mothers, therefore we need a place to breastfeed and nurse babies when we come to town and are looking forward to hearing about what are some of the council's plans in addressing these issues,” said Kumar

Jyoti Naidu, who is visually impaired, called for more disability friendly planning: “The footpaths, roads and shop steps in Nadi town do not have wheelchair ramps, which makes it a very hostile environment for disabled people. We also need proper crossing lights with sound so that the visually impaired people can be safe on the streets and have a freedom of movement,” she said while

Sereima Lutumailagi from the Namotomoto Village in Nadi, raised concerns about air pollution: “My issue is the environment. I am from Namotomoto village which falls within the Nadi town boundary and we often get traffic jams on the roads through my village. The fumes from the vehicles are not healthy for the people or the environment. Secondly, I would also like clarification on who manages the road humps and zebra crossing's in my village which is not maintained properly,” she said. She also raised the issue of improved facilities for market vendors, especially women.

According to FemLINKPACIFIC's Executive Director, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, the interactive dialogue was a valuable opportunity to link their “1325 network members” to the key policy and operational decision makers in Nadi Town: “We look forward to replicating this model throughout our rural network, as it is vital that women are provided the time and the space to be heard, and to actively engage in discussions. Today, the issues raised from disability access, the pollution caused by traffic, the call for a crèche facility in town, as well as the situation of market vendors, have been positively received, and demonstrate that for sustainable development, you need to invest in women's participation especially at the local level. This demonstrates just how women can be supported, and involved.”

The town council's participation in the interactive dialogue, according to Mr Tuidraki demonstrates their commitment to an open door policy, particularly to ensure women's views and issues are taken into account by the local government authorities: “We have a very important understanding of the role that women play in our society, here in Nadi Town Council we consider it very important to ensure that women are not victimised or feeling insecure”, he said, adding “It is important to note that when we are doing this (Nadi development) master plan we are taking very seriously the views and consideration of women and how the women feel when they come to town and that has been taken care of with our city planner and when we are doing this planning we are thinking of women's views.”

Responding to the call for improvements to the town's garbage disposal systems, the Nadi Town Council CEO encouraged the women to take the lead in advocating for recycling, re-use and reduction efforts or the 3R project, to enhance waste management efforts while the council plans to establish Nadi's first land-fill. Currently all of Nadi's garbage is carted to Lautoka.

One of the major issues highlighted in the 2010 Nadi Action Plan was the call for urgent actions to be taken to stop the pollution of the Nadi River which affects village settlements including Namotomoto, Nakavu, Navoci, Narewa, Navakai, Sikituru, Yavusania, and Saunaka and the council representatives today reiterated their commitment to ensure the improved management of Nadi's river systems, including preventing the pollution of the waterways, which is a major source of food for the villages along the Nadi river.

The interactive dialogue will feature as a radio feature during this weekend's suitcase community radio broadcast at McDonalds Nadi this weekend.