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Situating Women

Situating Women: Gender Politics and Circumstance in Fiji OPEN ACCESS

Nicole George
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hbtd
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    Situating Women
    Book Description:

    Since the time of decolonisation in Fiji, women's organisations have navigated a complex political terrain. While they have stayed true to the aim of advancing women's status, their work has been buffeted by national political upheavals and changing global and regional directions in development policy-making. This book documents how women activists have understood and responded to these challenges.  It is the first book to write women into Fiji's postcolonial history, providing a detailed historical account of that country's gender politics across four tumultuous decades.  It is also the first to examine the 'situated' nature of gender advocacy in the Pacific Islands more broadly. It does this by analysing trends in activity, from women's radical and provocative activism of the 1960s to a more self-evaluative and reflexive mood of engagement in later decades, showing how interplaying global and local factors can shape women's understandings of gender justice and their pursuit of that goal.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-15-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science
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  1. Feminist international relations and political science scholarship has, in the last two decades, demonstrated an increasing interest in the political agency of womenʹs organisations. The claim that the institutions of global governance—the state, multilateral organisations and financial institutions—are ʹgendered, and gendered maleʹ (Pettman 1996: vii),² has underpinned this scholarship. As a result, feminist scholars have turned their attention to alternative spheres of political engagement which have allowed women to have a global political voice. From this perspective, womenʹs organising is recognised as a significant realm of collective political activity with the capacity to challenge or initiate change within...

  2. What is a contingent approach to womenʹs collective political agency and why is it valuable? This chapter offers answers to these questions by surveying existing approaches to the study of womenʹs organising and considering where and how these approaches might be usefully expanded. The conceptual framework I develop here foregrounds the importance of contextual factors when seeking to understand womenʹs political agency. This framework is then deployed in the following chapters to investigate the ways in which circumstance has shaped the political ambitions articulated by womenʹs organisation in Fiji over the past four decades.

    As I have established, feminist analysis...

  3. Up until the early 1960s, womenʹs organisations in Fiji were generally disengaged from national political debate. This changed in the decade leading up to Fijiʹs independence in 1970, as newly formed national womenʹs organisations began to articulate their concerns through practical programs and more politically oriented activities. This chapter examines how this political dimension to womenʹs organising gathered strength in the 1960s and early 1970s. As the following pages will demonstrate, local women became increasingly involved in provocative political activity in these years, their focus of engagement moving from a narrow articulation of ʹwomenʹs issuesʹ to a series of campaigns...

  4. Optimistic about the possibilities for further political change, Fijiʹs YWCA members envisaged continuing their forthright and often provocative advocacy campaigns for women during the UN-declared Decade for Women. But changing political circumstances, both within Fiji and outside the country, made this difficult. Women activists who had formerly made a strong political stance on issues related to Pacific Island nationsʹ political and economic sovereignty, now found themselves working within a more constrained political environment. As Pacific Island statesmen began to bow to increased international pressure to modify their stance on nuclear testing in the region and Pacific decolonisation, civil society groups...

  5. The period from 1985 to 1995 was one of mixed fortune for Fijiʹs womenʹs organisations. Overall, it was marked by an episode occurring in 1987 which had a critical political impact on the country and far-reaching social and economic consequences. In that year, the newly elected coalition government, made up of Labour Party and National Federation Party (NFP) representatives, was overthrown in the wake of a military coup. This event marked the culmination of an indigenous nationalist ʹinsurgencyʹ which had brewed since the countryʹs first Non-Alliance Party government had assumed political office only a few weeks earlier (Kelly and Kaplan...

  6. In November 2002, Fijiʹs Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, addressed a meeting convened by the Fiji Womenʹs Crisis Centre (FWCC) as part of its annual 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women. He voiced his support for the FWCCʹs anti-violence message and declared the governmentʹs shared commitment on this issue to be a clear demonstration of NGO-state ʹpartnership in actionʹ (Fiji Times 22 November 2002). Ironically, in the next breath, the Prime Minister took a more critical line, admonishing the Centre for its uncompromising public profile. ʹ[S]ometimes you might more effectively serve your cause with what I would describe as...

  7. On 6 March 2009, in the lead up to International Womenʹs Day, the Fiji Womenʹs Rights Movement launched a radio campaign aiming to promote democracy, human rights and rule of law in Fiji. The campaign featured various speakers articulating visions for the future of the country. These included wanting ʹa Fijiʹ with a popularly elected political leadership, ʹa Fijiʹ where equality of opportunity was safeguarded, and ʹa Fijiʹ with a fair and representative legal system. The timing of the campaign was deemed important by the FWRM who argued that womenʹs status could only be improved if democracy, human rights and...

  8. What is the relationship between political circumstance and womenʹs political agency? This central question lies at the heart of my analysis of gender politics in Fiji and informs my development of a ʹsituatedʹ history of womenʹs organising in this setting. This book has demonstrated the limitations of standard ʹcliff-topʹ approaches to the study of womenʹs organising which assess political agency in terms of how well activities conform to ideal-type reform- or resistance-oriented benchmarks. In contrast, this study gives extended consideration to the shifting socio-cultural, political and economic currents or contingencies which, at particular historical junctures, have shaped the political agency...