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Women's Response to Fiji Cabinet Line Up - WAPAD

4 July 2000

Women's Action for Democracy and Peace

An Initiative of the National Council of Women Fiji

The National Council of Women Fiji (NCWF) has responded to the announcement of the Interim Cabinet in a letter to the Interim Head of State, Commander Ratu Voreqe Bainimarama, voicing concern at the lack of gender and racial equality in the composition of the Interim Civilian Cabinet:

The text of the letter follows:

As you know, we represent a large cross section of women in Fiji, who have been meeting daily since May 21, bound together by the Mission Statement of the NCWF, in a peaceful demonstration, and with a collective and unified voice, to:

  • Denounce the actions of May 19th, 2000
  • Call for the immediate and safe release of the hostages held at Parliament
  • Call for the restoration of the democratic process as outlined in the 1997 Constitution


  • To reaffirm the need for all Fiji Islanders to unify in peaceful solidarity for the future of our country

    In the "Women’s Letter" of June 17th and our subsequent discussions with you and representatives of the Military Council, on the same day, we urged you to consider the following criteria for the selection of members to a Civilian Administration :

  • Equal representation of suitably qualified women and men;
  • The composition reflects the multi ethnic diversity of our country;
  • That members are competent specialists from different fields, in particular women and men who are well informed, visionaries, capable of promoting nation building

    It was widely acknowledged that this criteria would assure a positive affirmation of the work of women's non government organisations (NGOs) in the development of Fiji, through a range of major initiatives and practical actions to improve the status of women.

    The lack of the inclusion of women as peacemakers and political negotiators recently, now coupled with the exclusion of suitably qualified women in the Interim Cabinet exacerbates the concern that the political, social and economic advances by women in Fiji, since Independence, forged by the determination and commitment by many women’s non government organisations, has been drastically ignored, and the Women's Movement in Fiji, is having to almost 'start from scratch !'

    Whilst we are encouraged by the Ministry of Women's commitment to continue with their Gender Mainstreaming efforts within the civil service, including the facilitation of the current "Gender Training of Trainers" workshop, we further call upon you and the members of the Interim Cabinet, not to simply consider the status of women, within the confines of the Ministry of Women, but to ensure that such Gender Mainstreaming initiatives are maintained and further encouraged, to ensure greater gender parity in all sectors of society.

    We further urge you to ensure that the composition of the Constitution Review Commission ensures racial and gender balance, as well as provincial representation, and that an intense selection process is undertaken to ensure the collective needs, of our multi ethnic and multi cultural society, form the foundation of the Constitution Review Process.

    We also reiterate our call for a nationwide referendum prior to the commencement of the Constitutional Review Process.

    Once again, we thank you for your efforts to date in maintaining law and order and we give thanks for the release of the four women hostages on Sunday 25th June.

    However, we urge you to continue to do your utmost, to secure the safe release of the remaining hostages whilst also ensuring the safety and security of members of the families of those being detained and other members of the community who are still being victimized, despite the current military presence and curfew.

    We remain concerned that our communities continue to reside in an armed conflict situation, we therefore urge you to ensure the full implementation of crucial aggression-elimination strategies for the protection of the human rights of all people, in particular, women and children

    The NCWF wishes to reaffirm our role, as the national umbrella body for women’s organisation, in partnership with many other women’s non government organisations, and civil society partners, to remain proactive and responsive to the social, political, economic and spiritual needs of women and children in Fiji.

    Furthermore, we offer our network to ensure the effective facilitation and development, as well as coordination and implementation of these, and other community-focused strategies.

    Finally, we would like to reiterate our earlier commitment that you, and your advisors, remain in our prayers during these trying and very difficult times, as you persevere to reach a peaceful, lawful and socially just resolution, including the safe release of all hostages, the respect of human rights and the return to parliamentary democracy.

    May God Bless Fiji and all Fiji Islanders.

    Yours Sincerely

    Signed by Sharon Bhagwan Rolls
    For Miriama Leweniqila
    President, National Council of Women

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