Speak up, speak out – Ali

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Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) co-ordinator Shamima Ali join women during the Reclaim the Night march along the streets of Suva on Wednesday, March 08, 2023. Picture: ATU RASEA

AT 70, Shamima Ali says she is still the brunt of crude and lewd jokes because of her fierce determination to ensure every Fijian woman, girl and child gets to realise and enjoy their basic human rights.

Speaking to participants at the Fiji Teachers Union, Labasa branch International Women’s Day celebration last Saturday, she said the jibes confirm what she has always known — that patriarchal attitudes are still rife in Fijian society.

“I am 70 now and I still get the swears and horrible sexual jokes and comments about me but you have to brush it off and keep working as long as you know what you are doing and what you are saying is right,” Ms Ali said.

“Because those comments are to bring us down.

“Don’t feel ashamed, if you feel you are doing the right thing — just do it — that’s how I’ve learnt to do it.”

Her message to the women teachers in the audience was “don’t keep quiet just because the room is full of men, speak up and speak out, hold each other accountable and encourage each other.”

“When we talk about encouraging women, you need strong feminist women leaders.

“We need women solidarity — we have to work together and sisterhood — I’m taking you back to the old feminist slogans of solidarity and sisterhood.

“We don’t have to like each other but we must stand up for each other — realising what the issues are, why women are not doing so well, why isn’t there equity — that should bind us together because no woman is free unless all the women are free — that is a slogan globally and should be for us also.

“We need collective action, we require solidarity, sisterhood and accountability — from each other and from everyone else.

“Hold each other accountable — question always, question your leaders and question the government.

“Don’t keep quiet just because the room is full of men.”

Ms Ali said the only way that women would be able to take their place in society was by being vocal on the issues that matter and not content with taking a back seat on matters of national or women’s interest.

She said that type of advocacy would require each woman to discover who she really is and to be bold enough to speak from that place.

“We need to be empowered ourselves.

“What is empowerment? Empowerment is realising what is wrong and doing something about it and it also about having high self-esteem and a lot of confidence.

“We need to have those things.

“It is not easy. We have to fight every inch every centimetre of the way — no one is sitting around and saying ‘oh, let’s give women their rights.”

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