We are only ever afforded a glimpse into the lives of the communities we work with – and are there at their invitation. These communities are guardians of a wealth of traditional and cultural knowledge. They are also places in which social norms play a large role in determining the roles and responsibilities of men and women. Women’s leadership at the community level is critical to both the development of the community and our shared hiking enterprise.
The Fiji Women’s Fund project supported some of the identified needs of women in the communities, including supporting the women to manage the construction of their own kitchens that could be used for tourism purposes. At first glance, constructing kitchens may not seem like a particularly empowering project! But supporting the women to have a safe space, that they own, to come together, to cook, but also to talanoa (chat, share stories) is important.
We are incredibly proud of Elina, who is a strong advocate for greater opportunities for women’s leadership, and is heavily involved in the community’s tourism business, for co-authoring this publication by the Fiji Women’s Fund! As a social enterprise that partners with four interior communities in Fiji, hiking provides our guests an opportunity to immerse themselves, briefly and respectfully, in Fijian culture.
Through the project, Elina, as a member of one of the women’s groups involved, has had the opportunity to grow her experience as a project manager, successfully navigating differences of opinion with some of the men in the village about the direction the project should take.
Congratulations Elina and vinaka vakalevu for sharing your experiences!
“We are in the rural area and things are hard. Women have to do more work than men and we have to struggle for everything but we do not lose hope because we are the mothers of the family and we have to stand up for everything. Sometimes women go through big problems..
“The women’s voices in many villages are not heard….. but I’m very grateful because in the village where I live, the voices of the women are heard. Before this [project] all the ladies had to cook their food in various houses and various places. They weren’t able to come together and cook their food but I am very grateful today, the kitchen is completed. The women are really happy that they can come together in one-room, share ingredients and cooking utensils and sit together as one team to do the things that they want.
“Some challenges I initially faced was when they asked me who was going to construct/ build the kitchen because there are several carpenters within the village but I chose another man from another village as I’d seen that he could build things well so the men in our village said things at me but it did not discourage me. I did not know what to do but I had to do something so they can see that though I’m a woman, I can do something for my village. They have to see that I can do whatever men can do. From that day, I just decided I’ll stand my ground and will have to tell the entire village about the man I had chosen to construct the kitchen for us. So now whenever they come into the kitchen, they just say thank you.”
The women in Naga and Nubutautau villages are now exploring the use of their kitchens to develop new sources of income by developing value-added products such as chilli chutneys and guava jelly. Watch this space!
Read more about women’s leadership, the Fiji Women’s Fund and see the full report: Promising practices from Fiji in empowering women economically: Learnings from Talanoa Treks, Ra Naari Parishad, Rise Beyond the Reef, and the Fiji Women’s Fund
Spend time with our partner communities and she the work of women’s groups on any of our hikes. Check out our 2020 schedule of treks.