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Sisters Tackle Period Poverty in FijiTwo teenage sisters are working to tackle period poverty in Fiji. AnnMary and Faith Raduva, 16- and 13-year-old sisters, launched the Lagilagi Relief Campaign to help people who are unable to afford sanitary pads and tampons. In the aftermath of the recent Cyclone Harold and the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sisters noticed a shortage of sanitary pads had resulted in a spike in prices. The sisters started their campaign so that everyone who needed period products would be able to get them, regardless of their financial struggles.

The Current State of Period Poverty in Fiji

Though Fiji has experienced fewer than 50 cases of COVID-19, the global pandemic has impacted Fiji’s tourism industry, in which approximately 17% of native Fijians work. Since the pandemic, imports to the island nation have decreased, and Fijian women report that the cost of pads has gone up FJD $3, or 1.39 USD. This makes them more difficult to purchase, especially on a minimum wage salary.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only disaster Fijians have faced in 2020. In April, Cyclone Harold ravaged Fiji as a category four tropical storm. The cyclone caused major flooding and destroyed homes, schools and farms on multiple Fijian islands, including Viti Levu, the largest island of Fiji.

AnnMary Raduva said to Radio New Zealand that, for people who are currently out of work, free period products mean they can save those valuable dollars to purchase other necessities for their families. The Raduva sisters told the station that no one should have to choose between food for their loved ones or menstrual products.

How the Lagilagi Relief Campaign Is Helping

Since the cyclone, the Raduva sisters have put together over 300 of their “dignity kits,” each containing two packages of menstrual products, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a bar of soap. When they began, the sisters used solely their own time and money to compile the dignity kits, but they have since received donations from supporters and loved ones to help with their campaign.

The sisters also caught the attention of Asaleo Care Fiji, an Australian-based hygiene company that produces Libra-brand pads and tampons. The company donated over one thousand menstrual products to the Lagilagi Relief Campaign. Thanks to generous donations like these, the Lagilagi Relief Campaign will produce an additional 600 dignity kits for people struggling with period poverty in Fiji.

The Next Steps to End Period Poverty in Fiji

Though the Lagilagi Relief Campaign has helped hundreds, AnnMary Raduva is still advocating for systematic change to get to the root of period poverty in Fiji. She wrote in an opinion piece in the Fiji Sun, “Period poverty is widespread… and the taboo nature of menstruation prevents women and girls from talking about the problem.” Raduva praised New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for making menstrual pads free for all school-aged girls, and she encouraged Fiji and other countries to follow New Zealand’s lead.

In an interview with RNZ Pacific, Raduva stated that the Lagilagi Relief Campaign would continue to fight period poverty in Fiji. One way they hope to improve their dignity kits is by sewing washable pads to eliminate the need for disposable pads. Additionally, the sisters are taking their campaign to the government, asking Fijian leaders to invest in free sanitary care products for those who can’t afford them. This is in the hopes that period poverty in Fiji will no longer stand in the way of girls’ education and women’s rights.

– Jackie McMahon
Photo: Pixabay

homelessness in fijiFiji may be best known for its beautiful beaches and luxury resorts, but it remains a developing country that deals with poverty. In fact, 31% of its population lives below the poverty line and struggles on a weekly basis to meet their needs. This article will look into homelessness in Fiji, some of its causes and why this is such a prevalent issue today.

Five Facts About Homelessness in Fiji

  1. Poverty in Fiji’s capital: Suva, Fiji’s capital, is home to many of the nation’s homeless citizens. This includes individuals as young as primary school children. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, says those who are homeless are not necessarily in this situation because of medical issues or lack of alternatives. She states that while some people are homeless due to mental illness, others simply moved away from their families for one reason or another. She also shares that this homelessness can be generational.
  2. High poverty rate: Approximately half a million people residing in Fiji are living in poverty. This plays a big role in the homeless population in regards to a lack of housing along with “unemployment, urban migration, non-renewal of government leases for land, overpopulation of farming areas and the breakdown of traditional village life and culture.” For Fiji to reduce this problem, the country would have to start by building a minimum of 4,200 homes per year. This would significantly help with housing standards but, as a developing country, this is a difficult task.
  3. Natural disasters: Another factor that is to blame for homelessness in Fiji is its natural disasters. Recently, Cyclone Harold devastated the islands of Fiji, as well as other islands such as the Solomon Islands. This category four storm took place from April 1st through the 11th. While the total number of homes that have been affected remains unknown, at least 46 homes just in the Bouwaqa Village on Vatulele in Fiji have been damaged and 14 have been completely destroyed, leaving dozens of people without a home to go back to.
  4. Violence against women: Violence against women and girls has caused an increase in homelessness. It was estimated that 84% of young women who fall into these categories experience intimate partner violence and 66% of them have succumbed to homelessness due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  5. Efforts to help: Since the coronavirus pandemic, Fiji has been in lockdown like the rest of the world. One family, however, has taken it upon themselves to continue their mission to feed the homeless. A 12-year-old boy named Junior, his parents and a small team of individuals call themselves “MISSION-1.” Even before lockdown, MISSION-1 would come to the streets of Suva every Sunday and provide food and hot beverages to the homeless. Despite lockdown and the risk of arrest, this team has continued to provide for those who are often forgotten. Australia has also stepped up since Cyclone Harold devastated the Fiji Islands and has sent tents, kitchen supplies, hygiene items, containers for water as well as shelter kits. This is Australia’s way of giving back and thanking Fiji for their support during the Australian bushfires.

With continued help, there is always hope that Fiji’s homelessness rate will begin to decline.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr