Good Practice in Promoting Women's Reproductive Health and Rights in Fiji: Video interview by EuropeAid DDG, Marcus Cornaro
Earlier this month, EuropeAid's Deputy Director General Marcus Cornaro visited a number of projects funded by the European Commission in Fiji.
On other field visits, Mr Cornaro has been known to use his smartphone to conduct impromptu interviews with field staff and beneficiaries, to capture good practice and impressions from the field and to share their knowledge with other colleagues.
At the Viseisei Sai Health Trust's mobile clinic unit, wishing to share what he had learned about the clinic's activities, he arranged this interview with Head Doctor, Swaran Naidu. Ms Naidu reflects on the local circumstances and informally explains the comprehensive approach taken at the clinic to improve awareness of and control of reproductive health and rights among rural women.
The clinic is funded under the grant, Strengthening rights of rural women by providing them with knowledge, access and control of their reproductive role. The EU has contributed € 240,000 to this grant over a two year period, through the EIDHR country based support scheme.
The project aims to empower rural girls and women by raising awareness and knowledge on reproductive health and reproductive health rights, in combination with the provision of health care services.
In its early phase, the project is showing strong results. As of August 2013, 2052 women, girls and men had attended rural educational/ awareness sessions on reproductive health.
In these sessions, women’s sexual and reproductive health rights are discussed, with emphasis given to the fact that health encompasses physical, social, mental and spiritual aspects. The basic right to live without violence being perpetrated against them is also emphasised.
The educational sessions include safe sex practices, information on STIs, family planning and contraceptive use, and cervical cancer prevention. One- to- one counselling is provided as required.
1246 women have undergone breast checks, 918 Pap smears were performed, contraceptives were prescribed as required and gynaecological problems addressed. Family planning and STI counselling has also been provided. 162 women were referred to clinics at VSHC or Lautoka Hospital for specialist management.
After his visit, Mr Cornaro addressed members of the press. A transcript of his speech follows:
"Overall, the EU places a tremendous importance on gender issues, both at home and in the global context. Progress has been made and continues to be made, but major challenges remain, both globally and in the Pacific, including in combating gender-based violence and in promoting women's meaningful participation in politics and governance. These issues are a high priority for the EU.
Already in 2010 the EU adopted its first-ever Action Plan on Gender and Development (2010-2015), containing firm commitments by the Commission, the EEAS and the EU Member States. The Action Plan strengthens the way the EU works on gender in order to increase the concrete impact of our work. For the two years 2012-13, the EU has set aside €30 million for worldwide projects on women's economic and social empowerment.
Looking at the Pacific region, the EU remains concerned about the situation across the region, in particular with the high prevalence of violence against women, and the low participation of women in public life. Gender is an important cross-cutting item in all our projects and programmes in the region – whether for example in fisheries, in Climate Change, in access to energy or whatever the discipline may be.
But to address the gender situation most effectively, we need a strong commitment by our partners, we need engagement at Government and at community level, and we need a strong involvement of civil society. We also need to better understand the situation across the region and in each country.
Looking at Fiji, the EU is currently supporting a number of initiatives that contribute to improving the situation of women and children. This includes support to organisations such as ''Live and Learn", "FemLink", "Women's Actions for Change".
And, of course, we are very happy to support the Viseisei Sai Health Centre and outreach program to strengthen the rights of women by providing them with knowledge, access and control of their reproductive health. The aim is really to empower rural girls and women by raising awareness in reproductive health and at the same time providing them with the relevant targeted health care and the EU is proud to be associated with these efforts.
We have high expectations for this project – as it is only starting – and we believe the expected educational packages in the field of reproductive health that will be developed, the provision of contraceptives and counselling will go a long way to reducing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and provide access for girls to quality reproductive health services."
Colleagues are encouraged to follow Mr Cornaro's lead and conduct their own interviews for sharing on capacity4dev!