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Fighting for the Rights of Women, Girls, and the LGBTQI+ Community

A blog by Yashoda Chetty, a passionate young activist standing for and fighting for the rights of women, girls, and the LGBTQI+ community.

As a passionate young activist standing for and fighting for the rights of women, girls, and the LGBTQI+ community, I had the opportunity to work as an intern for the Reproductive and Family Health Association of Fiji and International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Pacific Office, on the Campaign for 16 Days of Activism 2023. 

I grew up in a privileged family. My family members, especially the elders (including the males of the household), emphasized on the need of girls being educated and being independent. My sisters and I were provided the best quality education and we were always given all the resources we needed for our education when we asked for it. It was a reality check for me when I later found out that the realities of many women and girls were completely different and very difficult ones. Girls had to sacrifice their education because they had care duties, their families did not prioritize the education of girls as they would be married off when they were older or the prevalence of gender inequality and power dynamics in the family were girls had to stay at home and have domestic roles while the males in the family provided for them. Women had to forsake their education because of their marriage and household commitments or they had to leave their jobs to take care of children and the elderly.


"As a young woman of today's world, it is easy to say to raise your voice but it is as difficult as to execute the action, but when you go through or face the problems then you will be able to break all the barriers. From my childhood to my adulthood, I'm still learning and studying the world because as a girl, I was not allowed to go out alone or work (part time). Hence, the result shows lack of confidence, no work experience, scared of talking to people (lack of interaction) and this absence of quality is dragging me behind to reach my goal.  When I was 16 years old I wanted to get my drivers license. My mom and my brothers supported me alot. My father was against our decision. He said that you cannot learn driving because you have a male instructor and his family and friends were provoking him.

One of his friends said “My wife is also getting a driving license but she has a female instructor. Why does your daughter have male instructor? What if something goes wrong?” With this mentality problem I really faced problems. He doesn't give money to me to go to my driving learner's class. My brother and I walked from my home to town and then town to home for 1 hour with my eyes full of water ,heavy heart and empty brain but I still didn't give up and got my drivers license. That was my first achievement. 

Through my 23 years of experience, I can say that society and the family members are the main influencer. If you want to break the barriers you need to fight for yourself. It is not necessary to have a huge  argument with your family, but you should take a timeout and discuss with your family what you really want to do and why. Try to convince your family members, let them to understand you and your decision. 

It is true that by raising your voice at the right time, at the right place to the right person will give your true rights."

Ritika Shweeta Prasad 
Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni (ELFA) - Fiji


What infuriated me the most about these situations and incidents where my friends had shared their stories with me was that they could not speak out about this injustice where they had to go through just because they were born as females. That gave me a foundation to work and advocate, support and empower women, girls and individuals of all diverse gender identities. 

The annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign runs from 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. It is an essential platform for raising awareness, exposing discriminatory attitudes, and lobbying for better laws and services to end gender-based violence in all its forms. The campaign includes global and local events that commemorates the significance of focusing on issues such as sexual and reproductive health rights, women in leadership roles, and empowering and supporting women. 



"We are all the same and have the right to [be treated] equally." - Philp Ameara, Vanuatu Family Health Association

In Fiji, nearly two out of every three women who have ever been in a relationship have faced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a male intimate partner at some point in their lives. Marital/Intimate Partner rape affects 1 in 3 women in relationships. Additionally, 1 in 3 women reported having been abused by a man who is not their romantic partner. In the formal sector, one out of every five women has encountered sexual harassment at work (the rates in the informal sector are unknown).

"As a feminist I would like for women in all their diversities making decisions about their own bodies without coercion and stigma." - Anonymous, Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni (ELFA) - Fiji


People who identify as members of diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) community—which includes gay men, transgender men, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women—also face discrimination and higher rates of violence from employers, schools, healthcare facilities, and other daily life contexts. They also face more severe forms of violence from partners, family members, and communities often resulting from the intersectional impact of both their gender identity or expression and sexual orientation, compounding the challenges they experience. More research is required in order to fully understand the significance and widespread discrimination that these communities face. An in-depth investigation is imperative to fully comprehend the extensive scope of violence experienced by women, girls, and individuals of all gender identities living with disabilities. These individuals are particularly susceptible to emotional, financial, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of family members, partners, caregivers, and institutions (like health and social services). 

"The biggest risk for not including a person with disabilities is that their potential as human beings are limited in accessing every aspect of life. They have the equal rights to live life like any abled person." - Zebedee Joseph, Youth Volunteer Lae, Papua New Guinea Family Health Association

I believe that the 16 Days of Activism campaign is extremely important in raising awareness about the prevalence and repercussions of gender-based violence. This includes raising awareness of the various forms of violence that women, girls and gender diverse individuals face, such as intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and workplace harassment. The campaign fosters open discourse, challenges established traditions, and breaks the silence surrounding gender-based violence by bringing these topics to light.


"I will not hide the fact that someone's daughter is being physically and emotionally mistreated in any way. I intend on breaking the generational curse of violence. Now is the time to put a stop to violence against women; my children and their children will carry the legacy of doing so. Respect others by respecting yourself first." - Rosita Taleo, Vanuatu Family Health Association (VFHA)

One of the main goals of the campaign is to confront discriminatory attitudes that enable  violence against women. Gender discrimination is deeply ingrained in cultural structures and practices, often resulting in unequal power dynamics and the normalization of violence. Gender inequality is a root cause of  gender based violence. The campaign's goal is to change these perceptions by encouraging individuals and communities to value gender equality and women's rights. It seeks to create a more inclusive and equitable society through education and public engagement.

"In the Pacific, SRHR are often sidelined, affecting our youth who make up about 56% of the population. It's time to change this narrative! Let's passionately advocate for quality CSE/FLE, access to SRH services, and empower our youth to know and assert their SRH rights. A brighter, healthier Pacific future starts with ensuring every individual has the right to their body, protection from unwanted sexual advances, and access to quality comprehensive sexual education/family life education. Together, let's be the catalyst for this change!" - Jessica Work, Youth Networker, IPPF ESEAOR SROP Office

I believe that the 16 Days of Activism serves as a basis for advocating for better laws and services to combat gender-based violence. It advocates for the passage and enforcement of legislation that protects and ensures the safety of women, girls and gender diverse individuals. Furthermore, the campaign emphasizes the importance of providing survivors of violence with accessible and comprehensive support services such as shelters, counseling, and legal aid. The campaign aims to create a conducive environment for survivors to seek justice and rebuild their lives by urging governments and policymakers to take action.

"We can learn great things from little experiences." - Anika Pascal, Vanuatu Family Health Association

The 16 Days of Activism campaign acknowledges that ending violence requires the advancement of women's rights related to their sexual and reproductive health. In many societies, women face obstacles when trying to access comprehensive reproductive healthcare, which includes safe abortion, contraception, and maternal care. In addition to promoting the removal of these obstacles, the campaign supports the provision of first-rate medical care that respects women's autonomy and decision-making. It emphasizes how important it is to give women the power to make decisions about their bodies and future reproductive opportunities.



"This crucial period serves as a poignant reminder of the need for sustained efforts to eradicate violence, discrimination, and inequality faced by women and marginalized communities worldwide. As we unite during these 16 Days of Activism, let us remember that safeguarding SRHR is not just a cause; it is a pledge to cultivate a future where dignity, equality, and autonomy flourish, breaking the chains of oppression and nurturing a world where every life can blossom without fear or constraint." - Ashleigh Mar-Chang, Reproductive & Family Health Association of Fiji


The 16 Days of Activism campaign is also an important time to celebrate and highlight the importance of women in leadership roles. It recognizes that, in addition to being a human rights issue, advancing gender equality and women's empowerment is essential for social progress and sustainable development. The campaign encourages women to actively participate in politics, decision-making, and leadership roles. By showcasing the achievements and voices of women, it seeks to debunk gender stereotypes and inspire the next wave of female leaders.


"Enhancing sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific demands a culturally sensitive approach, considering factors like access and beliefs. Introducing innovative ideas respecting local customs while emphasizing universal rights can bring about positive change. This includes advocating for comprehensive health education, ensuring widespread access to family planning, improving maternal healthcare, and supporting autonomy in decision-making. Amplifying the voices of Pacific residents who understand their communities fosters better support. Prioritizing inclusivity and standing up for rights can significantly impact sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific." - Cathreen Sabrina Tu'itupou, Tonga Family Health Association


"HIV+ is the real deal; the stigma has always been heavy on the women just because SRHR is a ‘tapu’ (taboo) topic. If this is the case, then how can we eliminate any form of violence, if women and girls cannot access these simple life saving services. END the TAPU, END the STIGMA, END the VIOLENCE." - Laina Sami, Peer Educator & Youth Volunteer, Tuvalu Family Health Association

Encouraging and empowering women in all their diversity is a central goal of the 16 Days of Activism. The campaign calls on communities, organizations, and individuals to take proactive steps to end violence against women. It emphasizes how important it is to establish safe spaces, provide education and training, and encourage women to enter the workforce. The campaign supports women's empowerment with the goal of creating a society free from discrimination and violence against them. Together, let's put an end to gender-based violence and advance equality going forward.


"Seal your community against SGBV, act together through Education, Awareness, Unity and Understanding. Break the Chain of SGBV, Knowledge is power." - Fenuatapu Esela Mesako, Tuvalu Family Health Association

Special thanks to Regina Vaka'uta for the wonderful illustrations featured on this web page.