Apr 28, 2022
EIGHTY per cent of all women and girls raped in Fiji are raped by people known to them and half of the time, the perpetrator is a family member.
It is therefore very important to be compassionate and to be the kind of leader who promotes kindness.
Shamima Ali, coordinator Fiji Womens Crisis Centre told graduating students of Gau Secondary School not to pay attention leaders who promoted hate.
GSS is the only school on an island of 17 villages, located in the very centre of Fiji, the maritime province of Lomaiviti.
“When we look at the problems faced by women and even in the world, we have to ask “I vei na loloma?” Ms Ali said. [I vei na loloma – Where is the love]
“We have to ask where it is going and work hard as a community to reintroduce and practice it.”
Ms Ali who was chief guest at the school’s awards ceremony on the island in mid November began her career at the school in 1975 as a teacher, five years after the school was founded. She went on to help propel the womens movement in Fiji as a founding member of the policy based NGO Fiji Womens Rights Movement and as the founding coordinator of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, a position she continues to hold since it's establishment in 1984.
The feminist leader told the hundreds who had turned up for the day long event, the world was losing kindness.
“People are suffering all over our world, especially the vulnerable; the women, children and also many men,” Ms Ali said.
“We need to be kind to each other – No bullying! Stand up to bullies and support those who are being bullied. Stand up for what is right – that is part of leaderships!”
“We need many more leaders who have a lot of compassion”
Ms Ali who has maternal links to several villages on Gau and neighbouring Nairai island said Gau Secondary School had a tradition of celebrating the country’s mixed race society.
“As I look around and see Indian teachers, I am reminded of my own time here. Having mixed races in all our schools, especially here at the rural level provides great learning opportunity for both sides.”
“We all need the same thing. We all need to eat, to work, to love and be happy. So it should not be hard to learn from each other. We should celebrate our diversity, as long as they enhance everyone’s lives.”
Ms Ali said there were many leaders both here and international, who were “Behaving very badly” and she told the students “Dont listen to them!”
“Listen to your church values, listen to your parents, don’t listen to people who teach you bad things about hating another race, another religion and so on.”
Gau Secondary School has 27 staff and only 12 staff quarters teaching 207 students from Year 9 to Year 13. There are two Indo Fijian teachers in the indigenous Fijian dominated school. Fiji which has over 50% indigenous Fijians and close to half of Indian descent has had a history of difficult race relations.
***Lice Movono is a freelance journalist