Fiji’s UN Permanent Representative Office Visit (18/01)
RPF Staffs joined the Regional Rights & Resource Team of the Pacific Community (SPC), to meet with Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan.
Ambassador Khan, who is Fiji’s Permanent Representative to Geneva, has just been recently appointed as the Vice President of the Human Rights Council.
The staff shared a few light moments with Ambasador Khan, before she departed.
ADVOCACY WEEK: OUTRIGHT ACTION INTERNATIONAL (New York, USA)
Rainbow Pride Foundation Project Assistant and young trans-feminist Ms. Amasai Jeke attended a two (2) weeks Advocacy Week and Out Summit alongside fifty (50) fellow LGBTQI activist from around the world from Friday, 30 November to Friday, 07 December 2018 at New York City, NY, USA.
The advocacy week included advocacy training and strategy development, visits and meetings with UN Diplomatic Missions/Representatives and networking amongst the activist participants; sharing knowledge and lived experiences together with success stories and way forward relating to their work on the promotion and protection of LGBTQI rights.
Ms. Jeke shared that her engagement in this space was critical as the advocacy week was about building solidarity and ally-ship between the Global North and the Global South activists and at the same time giving space for each participant to strengthen their positions and discussion on critical issues affecting the global LGBTQI movement.
According to Ms. Jeke, the experience have empowered her to grow and develop her capacity, personally and professionally as a Pacific Trans Feminist/Activist and she looked forward to utilizing and sharing this knowledge and learnings with her community(ies) in Fiji and the Pacific. Ms. Jeke also shared that the visits to the UN Missions were very welcoming as she used the opportunity to lobby for more humanitarian related response and in-country partnerships. She also put forth the key recommendations from the RPF groundbreaking study “Down by the River” in this space of engagement; as she comes from a region that is experiencing first hand the brunt of Climate Change.
Ms. Amasai also echoed that she was very fortunate and thankful to be part of the training and in meeting activists from all over the world, who continued to resist and transform the world, in multiple ways, in different trenches.
OutRight Action International is an international civil society organization that seeks to advance human rights and opportunities for LGBTIQ people around the world by developing critical partnerships at global, regional, and national levels to build capacity, document violations, advocate for inclusion and equality, and hold leaders accountable for protecting the rights of all LGBTIQ people.
WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS DAY MARCH: SUVA, FIJI (10th Dec)
Rainbow Pride Foundation today marched in solidarity with other Human Rights Defenders and Human Rights NGO’s to commemorate the World Human Rights Day and the closing of the 16 Days of Activism.
The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the new United Nations.
The formal establishment of Human Rights Day occurred at the 317th Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on 4 December 1950, when the General Assembly declared resolution inviting all member states and any other interested organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.
RPF Partners with the Teachers Union in Fiji to promote inclusive education (3rd-4th Dec)
The Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF) partnered with the Council of Pacific Education (COPE) to facilitate the Capacity Building Workshop on “Teachers Unions for Inclusion: Embracing diversity and promoting safe schools” which was held from 3rd to 4th December, 2018 at the Southern Cross Hotel in Suva.
The objectives of the 2-day Workshop were to:
– To increase awareness on LGBTI issues, especially policies and existing legislation in the national context
– To develop mechanisms to review existing education methods and education-related materials to promote inclusive education
– To discuss the role of education stakeholders including teachers and their unions to uphold and protect the human rights of all learners with focus on SOGIE.
– To develop national action plan to eliminate discrimination in the education sector on the basis of SOGIE.
RPF Executive Director Mr Isikeli Vulavou said RPF is focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.
According to Mr Vulavou, RPF’s goal is for every student, in every school, to be valued and treated with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
He said the organisation believes that all students deserve a safe and affirming school environment where they can learn and grow.
“The right to education is a basic human right. All children and young people have the right to access quality education and the right to respect within the learning environment. However, all over the world young people are missing out on education due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity/expression,” he said.
“In many instances’ lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) leaners suffer exclusion, harassment and discrimination including bullying from other students and even school staff. In the same way as discrimination based on race, sex, color, disability or religion is unacceptable, so is discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression,” Mr Vulavou said.
Thirty participants attended the Workshop. This was represented by the Fijian Teachers Union (FTA), Fiji Teachers Union (FTU), the USP Staff Association and Education International Asia-Pacific Region (EIAP). The workshop concluded with an action drawn up by all three union for implementation in 2019.
Mr Vulavou expressed his appreciation to UNESCO, Education International, COPE and Teachers Unions in Fiji for supporting such Workshop.
LGBTQI community should be treated equally: Health Minister (01/12)
Picture: Fiji Times
MEMBERS of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) communities in Fiji should be treated equally like any normal human being when accessing medical treatment for sexually transmitted diseases or AIDs, says Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete.
He made the statement after LGBTQI community members raised their concerns with him yesterday, claiming that they have been subjected to discrimination while trying to access medical services at various health facilities in the country.
Dr Waqainabete said members of the LGBTQI should no longer fear under his administration.
“I can also feel the hurt when they shared their story this morning, for members of the LGBTQI they should be treated equally like any normal human being when trying to access medical treatment or screening for AIDs or sexual transmitted diseases,” Dr Waqainabete said.
“I’ve advised them if they ever find any problems, it is important that they contact me directly and I will take it from there, as the minister for health and medical services, I will make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Reigning Adi Senikau Queen Niko Naituku said they welcomed the news relayed to them by Dr Waqainabete.
“Now that he has offered to assist us and the most important thing is for us that action is genuinely taken because we are discriminated against every day,” Naituku said.
#TEST4KFJ NATIONAL ROADSHOW (26th-30th Nov)
The Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF) joined the FJN+ [Fiji Network of People Living with HIV (PLHIV)] who organized a week long Roadshow which entailed community/village outreaches around mainland Viti Levu from the 26th-30th November, 2018. The Ministry of Health & Medical Services Lautoka Hub was also on site to take HIV tests. This was the first time ever the Rainbow Pride Foundation have openly conducted SOGIESC sessions at the village/ community level.
The roadshow outreaches promoted testing and the importance of people knowing their status. The team also used this opportunity to promote the #Test4kFJ campaign. The villagers were sensitised on a number of issues ranging from HIV/AIDS, Safe Sex Practices, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity/Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) and other interlinked issues to sexual & bodily autonomy and health & rights and mental health.
The roadshow team visited Matacula village in Tailevu province, Barotu village in Ra province, Nailaga village in Ba province, Korovuto village in Nadi district and Namada village in Nadroga province.
Ilisapeci Delaibatiki, the RPF Western Chapter Coordinator who was part of the group, shared that the total number of people reached was 256 and out of this 126 got tested who were mainly young people. She also shared the community was so eager to learn more about the issues discussed.
Most participants at these community sessions, stated that “they weren’t aware of issues around LGBTIQ+ and that they valued the work being done by such organizations to create a free & equal society”. A lot of the villagers emphasized the importance of acceptance for all people and moreover expressed concern on how stigma and discrimination further alienated people living with HIV or those with diverse sexual and gender identities/expressions.
The outreach team came straight from Namada village to Suva to join the World AIDS Day march & celebration at Sukuna Park on Saturday 1st of December.
The #Test4kFJ campaign intends to test 4000 young people for HIV by July 2019; allowing them to know their HIV status. The RPF was privileged to have the current Adi Senikau and RPFs Central Chapter Coordinator Ms Nicco Naituku participated in this roadshow along with the 2015 Adi Senikau & member of Lautoka RPF cluster, Ms Aqu Brown and Christopher Lutukivuya, our MSM/PLHIV rep on the RPF Board of Directors.
The Rainbow Pride Foundation is indeed grateful to our partners the FJN+ for affording us the opportunity to accompany them on this roadshow as well as to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services for your continuous support, technically & financially!
Commonwealth Pacific Regional Youth Leaders Workshop 2018 (27/11)
Commonwealth Pacific Regional Youth Leaders Workshop 2018 kick-started yesterday in Nadi, Fiji. Over 40 youth leaders from across the Pacific countries are here to participate in the workshop; which aims to strengthen regional Youth participation mechanisms, equip and enhance capabilities of youth leaders in the Pacific region.
Project Officer – Lavetanalagi Seru is attending this workshop from the Rainbow Pride Foundation.
SOGIESC/LGBTIQ COMMUNITY OUTREACH: TAVAKUBU, LAUTOKA (22nd Dec)
On Thursday 22nd Nov the Rainbow Pride Foundation was invited again by our Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) partner, Church Agencies Network Disaster Operations (CAN DO) to facilitate a sensitization workshop on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity/Expression & Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) @ one of their workshops with church leaders in Tavakubu, Lautoka. The workshop was mainly attended by senior clergy men and women from the Fiji Methodist Church’s “wasewase o Lautoka.”
Rainbow Pride Foundation Project Assistant Ms Amasai Jeke & Western Chapter Coordinator Ms Ilisapeci Delaibatiki facilitated the session and shared that it was such a poignant and emotional experience for them as they grew up in the methodist church but left after they felt that it was no longer a safe space for them (being subjected to stigma and discrimination), but the overwhelming outpouring of support and show of love they experienced yesterday within that same space was refreshing and reassuring. One of the participants stated “…because they are a part of our family and village and play an important part in our lives. They are also human beings like everyone else.”
According to Ms Raileqe it was welcoming to see a few familiar faces and family members present as it boosted her confidence and she hoped that what they shared will create an impact in that faith-based community.
Other CAN DO partners that facilitated sessions included the National Fire Authority, Save the Children & FNCDP who also discussed their work on disaster response.
CANDO is a collective of religious bodies & organization that are unified in working towards DRR & humanitarian response. This is the third opportunity for the RPF to work with CAN DO to deliver a session on SOGIESC101. The previous opportunities were @ Korovisilou in the province of Serua in August and the recent one in October at Yaroi village in Savusavu.
‘Force is with you’ (21/11)
Picture: Jovesa Naisua (Fiji Times)
THE Acting Commissioner of Police (ACP), Rusiate Tudravu, has reiterated the force’s support towards the safety and security of the LGBTQI+ community in the country.
ACP Tudravu said the force would take every effort in carrying out its responsibilities if reports were lodged at any police station by the LGBTQI+ community members.
“I have also heard some reports of complaints that have been raised about the attitude of police officers,” ACP Tudravu said.
“This is something which we would like to manage. I see from my side is that a change in the mind-set and this can be improved through awareness and training.
“On this note, the Police Commissioner has already stated that the force will be liaising closely with them and then start some awareness programs and trainings as to how to treat the LGBTQI+ groups.
As much as we would like to attend to their grievances and concerns, we also have to be mindful that there are other citizens who also need to be protected. But this matter will be taken seriously.” ACP Tudravu reassured the LGBTQI+ community that police would look into their complaints and grievances seriously.
Police will now look at all reports lodged about discrimination and ill‑treatment towards LGBTIQ Community (21/11)
Police will now look at all the reports that have been lodged about discrimination and ill‑treatment towards the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Community at various police stations.
Acting Police Commissioner ACP Rusiate Tudravu highlighted this after concerns were raised at the Transgender Day of Remembrance on the level of discrimination and hatred towards transgender people in Fiji particularly the two recent murder cases of the late Iosefo Magnus and the 23yr old USP student, Akuila Salavuki who was found dead along the Suva foreshore on the 17th of May this year.
He says that most of the transgender people are coming out with information with regards to what they face out there.
Tudravu says that police will then relate to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Community as to what transpired with their investigations.
He says that it is good that the LGBTQI community is raising these issues.
Tudravu says that police will also be reviewing all other cases that were raised by the LGBTQI community.
Meanwhile, it has been more then a year now Iosefo Qionitoga Magnus was found brutally murdered at the Vesida shortcut off Caubati and police confirmed that they are yet to make any arrests.
A group of people gathered at the murder scene on the 21st of September to remember the late Magnus.
In the case of Akuila Salavuki, who was found dead along the Suva foreshore, 20‑year‑old Saula Temo has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder in this case.
Temo is alleged to have murdered Salavuki on the 17th of May this year.
It is also alleged that Temo hit Salavuki on the head with a piece of timber that caused Salavuki’s death.
He has been remanded in custody and the case has been adjourned to next Tuesday.
Increase in killings of transgender people (21/11)
Picture: Jovesa Naisua (Fiji Times)
THE number of murders involving members of the transgender community has increased globally, claims the executive director of the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network (PSGDN) and Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF), Isikeli Vulavou.
Speaking during the celebrations held to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Suva yesterday, Mr Vulavou said the trans murder monitoring data for the Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018 update had revealed a total of 368 cases of reported killings of trans and gender diverse people between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018.
“This constituted an increase of 43 cases compared with last year’s update and 73 cases compared with the 2016 update,” Mr Vulavou said.
“The Transgender Day of Remembrance was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honour the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.”
He said the day served to raise public awareness of hate crimes against the transgender community as well as to publicly mourn and honour the lives of community members who might otherwise be forgotten.
“It also helps to raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and address the issues these communities face,” he said.
He said the day also honoured the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.
PLEA TO END TRANSPHOBIA (21/11)
Picture: Jovesa Naisua (Fiji Times)
THERE is still a lot of ignorance and discrimination against the transgender community in Fiji and the Pacific and this leads to their marginalisation and invisibility in society.
This was the sentiment of the executive director of the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network (PSGDN) and Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF), Isikeli Vulavou, while speaking at the Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Suva yesterday.
Mr Vulavou claimed that transsexual people experienced substantial discrimination at work, faced healthcare issues and were subjected to poor legislation at national level.
“Gender nonconformity is still used as an excuse for harassment, violence and even murder of transgender people,” Mr Vulavou said.
“A considerable number of transgender people live in poverty and a large number report suicidal ideation.”
He said PSGND, RPF and its allies had done a lot of work to advance the rights of transgender (LGBTQI+) people in Fiji and the Pacific.
“Obviously, there is still a lot of work to be done and we are only beginning to properly address the issues and work towards solutions,” he said.
He welcomed the fact that more institutions embraced the issue and took practical steps towards elimination of discrimination and prejudice of transgender people in the country and the Pacific.
70th ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS; SUNRISE INITIATIVE
Secretariat Members of the Rainbow Pride Foundation were today present at the kickstart of a series of Global Events to mark the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Sunrise Initiative organized by the UN office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and it’s partners.
The early morning event which was officiated by the President of the Republic of Fiji, H.E Major General Jioji Konrote emphasized on the critical aspect of respecting and upholding Human Rights in Fiji and the Pacific, especially with challenges such as Climate Change fronting our doors and to which our community are directly impacted and are living the harsh realities.
Our programme officer, Lagi Seru who also spoke at the event on behalf of the young people and as the Alliance for Future Generations representative, shared issues that LGBTIQ people faced during disasters based from our recent study “Down by the River”, and further shared on how often our gender diverse community face violations of human rights pre to post disaster and humanitarian crisis because of their perceived or actual gender diversity.
The celebration was filled with performances from Oceania Centre & Theatre and also shared messages and spoken word acts from several other Pacific Human Rights activists.
A week long event is planned for the celebration in the following weeks as we look forward to the 16 Days of Activism leading up to the World Human Rights Day on the 10th of December.
MEETING WITH PARTNER : OXFAM AUSTRALIA
The Rainbow Pride Foundation today had the greatest pleasure of hosting a meeting with our OXFAM Australia partner representative Ms. Sem Mabuwa at the SPC Conference room in Nabua.
The meeting greatly acknowledged the various successes that the partnership between Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF) together with their National Office, OXFAM Fiji. The meeting also provided an opportunity for the Rainbow Secretariat to provide insight on other matters including addressing some of the gaps & barriers that the organization is working upon in their programs/projects.
Our Executive Director, Mr Isikeli Vulavou along with the members of the secretariat further shared on the work that they are undertaking in their different roles with a particular emphasis towards Disaster Risk Reduction & Humanitarian Response. They further shared on the many partnership and engagements that has been fostered by the organization with other Humanitarian bodies and groups including Faith Based Organizations (FBO) in its effort to address and lobby for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression and other Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) inclusion in the humanitarian response.
OXFAM Australia representative Ms. Mabuwa shared on way forwards for the partnership and greatly concluded that OXFAM greatly values the partnership it has with RPF and echoed that each milestone must be celebrated.
Also present at the meeting was Ms. Tupou Vere our focal point representative at the OXFAM Fiji Office.
THE newly-launched Hibiscus Festival ‘Safe Campaign’ by the Rainbow Pride Foundation is aimed at reducing the rising prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and teenage pregnancy among young people in Fiji.
Foundation executive director Isikeli Vulavou said the target beneficiaries of this campaign were young people between the ages of 16 and 39 years, with a particular focus on young key affected populations.
Mr Vulavou said they projected to reach out to at least 1000 people through the campaign.
“Our Safe Campaign is also focusing on drugs and substance abuse and mental health which have been identified as a contributing factor and a root cause for the increase in rates of STIs and teenage pregnancy.”
More on this story in today’s edition of The Fiji Times and in our E-Edition.
21 May 2018 Shannon Power
Fiji has just made history as the first country in the Pacific to host a LGBTI Pride parade.
The Pride March coincided with this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBT).
Rainbow Pride Foundation 4 LGBTQ Rights and Equality in Fiji organized the history making event. It decided to hold the parade in Fiji’s second biggest city, Lautoka, after police denied multiple requests to hold it in the capital, Suva.
Rainbow Pride Foundation’s executive director, Isikeli Vulavou said it was a ‘breakthrough’ to get permission to hold the parade. Local police even provided an escort for the 50 parade participants.
‘Being part of the parade, the participants shared on how liberating it was for them to call upon the public to realise that people of sexual and gender minorities exists, and are here to stay,’ Vulavou told Gay Star News.
‘For another, it was a historic moment, and was glad to be part of a time, when LGBTQI people were finally given a space to freely express themselves, have their voices heard on the streets, and simply being acknowledged for who they are.’
LGBTI Pride in Fiji
Fiji is a small country in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of just under 900,000 people.
Homosexuality is legal in Fiji. It became the second country in the world to enshrine the rights of LGBTI people in its Constitution. South Africa was the first country to do so in 1994.
But LGBTI people still face discrimination and violence, sometimes even at the hands of their own families.
In 2012, police cancelled an already approved Pride March at the last minute because it ‘did not realise that this was a march for gays and lesbians’.
Even Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is not very supportive of LGBTI people. He famously said in 2016 that all LGBTI people in Fiji should move to Iceland and stay there.
That’s why the parade was historic
The multiple cancellations of previous Pride events and discrimination faced by LGBTI people made last week’s parade very special.
‘It is important to hold public demonstrations like we did, so as to create and raise awareness about the existence of people of sexual and gender minorities, as we have our own set of challenges and struggles, and that LGBTQI people are often more vulnerable in most settings, including at their respective homes and families, workplaces and communities,’ Vulavou said.
“I AM a strong woman today because a strong woman raised me.”This was the sentiment shared by Katie Bari as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community celebrated International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) in Lautoka on Thursday.
Ms Bari is the daughter of Ilisapeci Raileqe, a volunteer with LBGTQI group Rainbow Pride Foundation.
She said her mother, a former sex worker, was one of the strongest survivors of stigmatisation discrimination sexual abuse and domestic violence.
“I remember one evening when my mum sat my brother and I down to confess she is a lesbian, my brother then did not understand but I was furious at her,” she said.
“I was angry. At first I could not come to terms with the fact that the woman who gave life to me is lesbian but mother’s love was never ending.”
Ms Bari said despite all the ordeals, her mother showed how much she cared for and loved her family.
“My grandparents accepted and supported mum despite her sexual orientation even though it was against their faith-based belief.
“If ever there were differences in the family, never did mum show any grudge. She stood firm in what she believed in and for that, I am very proud of her.
“It was only during the death of my grandparents that I finally overcame all my fears and accepted my mother for who she is because who am I to judge when God’s love knows no gender.”
DISCRIMINATION and harassment endured by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community is still eminent in society.
Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF) executive director Isikeli Vulavou claimed because of their sexuality or gender identity, many Fijians were separated from family and friends, harassed in the workplace or on the sporting field, abused by their neighbours or assaulted on the streets.
As the world prepares to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), advocates in Fiji are preparing to mark the event by raising awareness on the challenges faced by the LGBTQI community.
“Inequalities and exclusion also impedes sustainable human development and as such there is a need to reduce inequalities and end exclusion for all those left behind. “This means creating enabling legal and policy environments that will end all forms of stigma and discrimination and advance the rights of all people including LGBTQI people,” he said.
Mr Vulavou said IDAHOTB was an important opportunity to display the vibrancy of the LGBTQI community and the organisation’s commitment to fighting for equality and acceptance.
“This year’s IDAHOTB theme is ‘Alliances for Solidarity’, recognising the importance of solidarity and alliances, in the work to highlight the struggles, celebrate the achievements and continue to press for change, of hearts and minds towards people of gender and diverse sexual minorities.
“We will be highlighting recent RPF research, the discussions and activities shedding light on the overlapping dimensions of exclusion LGBTQI people face based not only on their sexual orientation or gender identity, but also on other identities such as their ethnicity, religion or social status.”
Yesterday the foundation marked the event in Lautoka.
Mindpearl, partnered with Rainbow Pride to commemorate World Aids Day with an extensive, internal awareness campaign.
A team from the Rainbow Pride Foundation set up information centres on Mindpearl’s site to conduct HIV counselling and testing. All Mindpearl employees wore red and wrote messages on the palms of their hands to express their unity in the fight against AIDS. The Rainbow Pride Foundation set up stations to educate staff on various topics relating to HIV/AIDS and offered counselling, testing and treatment on site.
Human Resources Manager at Mindpearl Fiji, Archana Kumar said, “As part of our overall sustainability efforts, we have had a long-standing commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS in the communities where we operate, as well as our own workplace.”
Isikeli Vulavou, Executive Director at the Rainbow Pride Foundation extended her thanks and said, “We truly value your partnership and admire the care you demonstrated for the well-being of your staff and look forward to conducting similar projects with Mindpearl in the future.”
About The Rainbow Pride Foundation:
The Rainbow pride foundation is an established organisation that is committed to fighting for rights, equality, social justice, health and well-being. The Rainbow Pride Foundation is actively involved in addressing the growing challenges experienced by communities today.