It’s confronting, but it needs to be told.
There is a village in the interior of the Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. It is 5kms from the nearest town and even that town is a long way from anything much.
To get from the village to the town, where medical facilities, shops and schools are located, people need to cross 4 old bridges. During the hurricane season, these bridges deteriorate more and more each year and become impassable. So to reach the town during this time, people need to walk a longer way around, and often find themselves cut off from the path home.
Girls in particular are vulnerable to rape and the women in the village are becoming increasingly angry and frustrated as teenage pregnancies result and girls are left traumatised and in a desperate situation; cycles of poverty are perpetuated and our Coordinator Urmila described them as now ‘pleading for help’.
Our friends at the Fiji Red Cross Society have done a Disaster Risk Reduction assessment of their situation and given them some strategies to manage the season this year coming. But it’s a short term strategy.
The Government won’t fix the bridges as they are only for the village and not used by anyone else. The village leaders want to build an evacuation centre for the women and children to stay in when disasters come each year. It will be close to town, have a kitchen and bathroom and we will give our support by helping them create a ‘Child Safe Space’ similar to a model that other NGOs facilitate around the world during disasters and in conflict zones.
They have a commitment for a small amount of local Government funding and a few small grants but the village needs to raise the rest which they are in the process of doing. But selling veggies at FJ$1 a bunch takes a long time and they need FJ$17,000 (approx AU$9,000).
Urmila has set them up with a fundraising account and we would like to contribute as an organisation to this safe space for girls who have the right to walk to school without fear of being raped.
So as we run in 2 weeks in the Bridge Run in Sydney and as we approach our Christmas appeal, we will be thinking of this community in rural Fiji who are anticipating the upcoming disaster season and of the women who are pleading for help in protecting their daughters from rape.
These girls have a future, the same as my 16 year old girl and yours. We’d love you to join the journey and partner with us as we partner with them…
Jane for team ‘a Girl & her world’