Updates from Fiji: Aftermath of Cyclone Tomas

By: Sharon Bhagwan Rolls

Sharon Rolls is a the Executive Director of Fijian based grantee femLINKPACIFIC.  We are grateful to share her updates and analyses in the aftermath of Cyclone Tomas. I have been following "Tomas" away from Fiji, but connected thanks to "new technology" with members of our rural women's media network. Well as connected as we could be until power outages especially in Vanua Levu, amongst other things, caused disruptions to our communication.

Through femLINKPACIFIC's network's experiences dating back to the floods in Labasa in 2004, we have become increasingly aware of the innovation of women in disaster preparedness and responses. We have also been aware of not only the impact and disruptions to lives and livelihoods of families, and communities, but also that as a result of the regular climatic battering these communities are experiencing, women and their families not only experience physical damage, but also the emotional trauma of disruptions and displacements.

I am aware that the disaster rehabilitation tends to be a very male dominated process, and would be pleasantly surprised to know if the Department of Women is actually actively engaged in the current series of meetings. It is in fact a global "phenomenon" that gender issues are sidelined in disaster contexts, however, this is not the case in other crisis situations.

In 2000, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1325, which "stress[es] the importance of [women's] equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security" (10) and "[r]ecogniz[es] the urgent need to mainstream a gender perspective into peacekeeping operation."

The resolution calls for increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in conflict prevention, management, and resolution; attention to the specific protection of the needs of women in "disaster zones" as well as in the ensuing processes, including design, management and review of post-disaster strategies.

Through the resolution, women must be integrated in reconstruction efforts, and local women's initiatives in maintaining peace and human security must be supported by the U.N. and government officials. In recent times, some aid groups have drawn on 1325 in their calls for a gendered perspective in disaster relief and what is needed now in Fiji is for this connection to not only be articulated, but put into practice.

I am sure the expertise available through our organization's rural women's media network on UNSCR 1325, as well as the local expertise available through women's civil society, would enable women who have experienced the series of floods, cyclones, hurricanes etc to ensure gender-mainstreaming and female participation in disaster prevention and rehabilitation work.

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls Executive Director - femLINKPACIFIC Member of UN-Civil Society Advisory Group on UNSCR 1325

FemLINKPACIFIC was founded in September 2000 in response to the civil coup in May of that year. The group was born out of the peace vigil convened by the National Council of Women, following the overthrow of the people's coalition government. Its mission is to empower women and communities by giving them a voice to fully participate in decision-making on policies that impact themes such as equality, development, and peace.


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