The first workshop on male advocacy for women’s human rights conducted by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre in partnership with the Pacific Conference of Churches ended on Friday, 22 July with the graduation of 27 men.
The men attending the workshop included ministers and young leaders of the churches that are members of the Fiji Council of Churches.
The five-day workshop marked an important step in the relationship between FWCC and the major Christian churches in Fiji after many years of trying to get religious leaders to use the influence their institutions can wield in eliminating violence against women.
“This is a great beginning for us all. It’s really important that men from religious organisations are full participants in this work because of the importance of the religious institutions, particularly the churches, in Fiji and the Pacific,” said FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali.
Ms Ali said she was pleased with the outcomes of the workshop and that many of the men have realised they needed to start by examining their own attitudes and beliefs about women. They also recognised the importance of starting in their own homes by treating girls and boys equally and practising human rights principles within their communities.
The men agreed to set up an ecumenical men’s network focused on the elimination of violence against women. They said an effective way for them to address violence against women was by using the platform of the pulpit to discuss the issue.
The workshop was the first of a four-stage series of male advocacy for women’s human rights training.
In closing the five-day workshop, Reverend Nikotemo Sopepa of the Presbyterian Church in Fiji urged the men to look at their attitudes to women.
“Do unto others what is human and don’t do undo others what is inhuman. That’s the strongest way I can think of how we male species of creation can advocate for women in their struggle for equality, in their struggle to be heard, in their struggle with violence in their families and communities, in their struggles with the violations of their beings, the violations of their bodies, their dignity,” Reverend Sopepa told the participants.
Further stages of the male advocacy workshops are being planned for members of the Pacific Conference of Churches in Fiji.