FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Why Her & Achieving SDG 5

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Why Her & Achieving SDG 5

FHTA, 09 March 2023 – International Women’s Day 2023 is marked by the theme of “Embrace equity.”

This year’s theme calls for a collective effort towards creating a society where everyone, regardless of gender, has access to equal opportunities and resources.

The theme of “Embrace equity” is a reminder that although progress has been made towards gender equality, there is still a long way to go.

Gender equality is a right. Fulfilling this right is the best chance we have in meeting some of the most pressing challenges of our time; from an economic crisis and lack of health care to climate change, violence against women and escalating conflicts.

Women are not only more affected by these problems, but also possess ideas and leadership to be able to solve them. Gender discrimination still holds too many women back, and holds our world back too.

Women continue to face numerous challenges that limit their ability to thrive and reach their full potential and this is noticeably harder in Pacific Island Countries (PICs) that have historically embodied patriarchal societies with deep roots in
communal systems.

These challenges include gender-based violence, discrimination, and unequal access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.

Embracing equity means recognizing these challenges and working towards creating a more just and equitable society for all. Obviously easier said than done and even more challenging to put into consistent practice.

It means ensuring that women have access to equal opportunities in education, employment, and leadership positions.

And while lines like these are said often enough, what do they really mean if we had to incorporate them into policies, strategies and action plans?

In practical terms, that means being just as ready to select a female candidate for a job position if she has the same qualifications and experience as a male, and not being afraid to hire her even if she is pregnant or has intentions of being a mother in the future.

We know this is a hard ask for many employers.

It also means dismantling the systems of oppression that perpetuate inequality and working towards creating a world where every person, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or other identities, can live a life free from discrimination and prejudice.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, let us embrace equity by advocating for policies and initiatives that promote gender equality and inclusivity.

Let us also amplify the voices of women, especially those who are underrepresented and marginalized, and support their leadership in all areas of society.

Fiji’s tourism industry is a prime example of how women have been the driving force behind the country’s economic growth.

With women making up around 60% of the tourism workforce, it is clear that they have played an indispensable role in the industry’s success.

Without their hard work, dedication, and commitment to excellence, Fiji’s tourism industry would not have flourished as it has today.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we recognize the remarkable achievements of women in the tourism industry and other sectors of Fiji’s economy.

Women have contributed in countless ways to the betterment of society, often without receiving due recognition.

One of the most inspiring developments in recent years has been the emergence of women as leaders in their fields, by breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes, and serving as role models for future generations of women.

However, gender equality remains a pressing issue in Fiji.

Women still face significant barriers to equal opportunities in the workforce, and only 43% of the paid workforce are women, despite a higher percentage of women graduating annually, according to Fijis universities and higher education institutions.

This statistic underscores the urgent need for policymakers to create more enabling structures that allow women to participate fully in the workforce, including in senior management teams and on boards.

It is not enough to simply talk about commitments to gender equality and inclusivity.

Concrete action must be taken to effect real change.

Policymakers must take the lead in creating actionable policies that promote equal opportunities and ensure that women have a level playing field.

Whether it’s giving our women rugby players what is due to them as players because we don’t think twice about providing these to the men’s rugby teams or recognizing our nurses across the country for carrying the weight of the medical services on their collective shoulders.

As we mark International Women’s Day, it is an opportunity to reflect on the invaluable contributions of women to our society and think hard about what we do individually to uplift the women in our workplaces.

From scientists, educators, healthcare professionals, social workers, activists, artists, and countless other fields, women have been at the forefront of social and economic progress throughout history.

Their contributions are essential in building a more inclusive, equitable, and just society.

Women have been instrumental in advocating for and achieving gender equality and human rights, fighting against discrimination and oppression, and driving positive change across various sectors.

Despite significant progress in recent decades, women still face numerous challenges, including unequal access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities, gender-based violence, and underrepresentation in leadership roles.

FHTA was fortunate to participate in the Rakorako series of workshops facilitated by IFC to promote Respectful Workplaces. Through this participation, FHTA now has a trained practitioner that can provide support to train, and provide policy advice and templates on Respectful Workplaces which include mechanisms to tackle bullying, harassment, gender-based discrimination and the response to gender-based violence.

The FHTA Code of Ethics was also reviewed to ensure that these values were included as part of the standard of care that members adhere to and FHTA has committed to including Respectful Workplace training as part of our annual training and workshop schedule for the next three years.

We want to ensure we support the creation of safe workplaces. Recognise and deal with inequality and gender-based violence

It is, therefore, crucial that we continue to support and empower women, to creatively address the barriers that limit their opportunities and create a more gender-equal world.

Fiji must review its current woeful efforts to achieve SDG 5 – the gender equality goal.

And we might start this review by making it required reading for policymakers of the UN Women’s 2018 flagship report, “Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda.”

We have 7 years to change our responses, our policies and supporting strategies.

On this International Women’s Day, we honour the contributions of all women to society and recommit ourselves to achieving gender equality and promoting women’s empowerment.

It is time to do the required hard work to change perspectives, adopt new policies and hold public sector agencies accountable for how people are selected for specific roles and why.

We must be ready to also challenge or congratulate the private sector on how they support and empower women so that we have more women leaders that our younger generations can look up to and strive to emulate.

Together, we can create a world where gender equality is not just an aspiration but a reality.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 09 March 2023)