“When we eat, men get a bigger portion. If there’s something left in the pot, women get that little portion. Even women took that as normal - that’s the way we were brought up,” says Reverend Jone Tuiwaiwai, a pastor at the Anglican Church in Wailoku Parish, Suva.
“In the eyes of God, both men and women are given power. We are all equal. But how some people interpret the Bible is misleading, giving men more power, which brings violence,” says Reverend Tuiwaiwai. “There are things God gave us that we cannot change, but our social roles are not one of them. We can change them.”
Reverend Tuiwaiwai is one of many faith leaders and activists working to prevent violence against women and girls with House of Sarah’s Preventing Violence Against Women in Fiji’s Faith Settings initiative, which started in 2018. A faith-based NGO, House of Sarah is supported by UN Women through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership), funded primarily by the European Union, the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, UN Women, and co-funded by the Fiji Women’s Fund (also supported by the Australian Government).
“We had already conducted training in the community to prevent violence,” explains Reverend Sereima Lomaloma, Founder and Trustee of the House of Sarah, and senior faith leader. “But violence continued because women were the only ones taking up the learning, not the rest of the family. The whole family needed to change. The whole community needed to change. But it wasn’t happening,” she explained.
So, when the opportunity arose for House of Sarah to partner with UN Women to carry out the internationally recognised SASA! Faith approach to preventing violence against women, developed by Uganda-based organisation Raising Voices, Reverend Lomaloma welcomed the chance. The SASA!Faith approach has been proven to reduce levels of violence against women, and Fiji is one of many countries around the world adapting and implementing it.