Reaching Out, Reaching Women: Assessing the Impact and Effectiveness of FWRM's Citizenship Rights Awareness Training
Kant, R. 2015. Reaching Out, Reaching Women: Assessing the impact and effectiveness of FWRM's citizenship rights awareness training. Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Suva, Fiji.
48 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2017
Date Written: 2015
Fiji had its first democratic elections in September 2014, after eight years of military rule that began with a coup d’état in December 2006. The election was fought on the basis of a new open list proportional representation (PR) system. Candidates were identified by a number on the ballot paper, and party affiliations were not listed on the ballot paper nor the official National Candidates list. In accordance with the 2013 Constitution, the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 years. With this change, and the length of time since the last elections, close to 30% of voters were first time voters and approximately 47% of the voting population was below the age of 35. There were over half a million (591,101) eligible voters registered for the elections signaling the eagerness of Fijians to return to parliamentary rule. Contesting the elections were 249 candidates, including two independent candidates, and 7 registered political parties. There were a total of 44 female candidates. As early preparations began for the elections, in 2012 the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement was awarded a European Union (EIDHR) grant for the a project called “Enhancing the Political Participation of Marginalized Women Voters”. The overall objective of the project was enhanced political participation of women, particularly women from minority and marginalized groups, in national democratic processes.
This research has found that most recipients of FWRM training thought the training was useful or very useful, that is 81% of direct and indirect recipients. FWRM had produced two publications to accompany the two phases of training, and 69% of all training recipients also found these materials to be useful or very useful. However, the materials were particularly helpful for those receiving training indirectly, with close to 90% of those respondents finding the publications useful or very useful. One of the objectives of the non-partisan FWRM media campaign and training was to empower women to attend campaign meetings as a means of making informed voting choices.
The research showed FWRM made a significant impact here, as there was a higher percentage of women who received FWRM training directly that also reported attending campaign meetings, as compared to the indirect participants and those from the random selection. The survey showed 64% of direct participants attended campaign meetings, with only 42% attending such meetings from among indirect participants and down to 35% from the random selection. Thus the FWRM training programmes were useful as a mechanism to politically empower women. Despite the training, however, the majority of respondents did not vote for women. Only 27% of training recipients (both direct and indirect) voted for women, while 32% of the random respondents gave women their vote. This goes against expectations, and indicates that there are many barriers remaining to the full recognition of women’s leadership.
This research focused on the training and not the media component of the project, as the media campaign was monitored through different methodologies throughout the two years of the project. However, this research does confirm the findings of the initial FWRM scoping study from 2013: that radio remains a prime medium for reaching women. This finding had been incorporated into the design of the media campaign, that included multi-lingual radio advertisements and talk-back radio advocacy.
Keywords: Women's political participation, civic education, civic awareness, Fiji elections, Fiji politics
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