SUVA, March 8 (Xinhua) -- While Fiji has made significant development in recognizing women's rights over the past 25-years, the island nation is still challenged with the prevalence of violence against women and girls, a Fijian government minister warned on Sunday.
In her message for International Women's Day, Fiji's Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa praised the island nation for significant achievements and development of women and girls' participation, particularly in the areas of education, maternal mortality, women's representation in leadership positions, increased public awareness and recognition of women's rights as well as progressive legislative frameworks have been welcomed.
Fiji's ranking on the World Economic Forum's global gender gap shifted 15 places up from 121 to 106 out of 187 countries in 2018.
The minister pointed out that while they acknowledge these development strides, Fiji is still challenged with the high prevalence of violence against women and girls, discriminatory social norms, behaviours and attitudes, limited participation of women in the formal economy, adolescents' limited access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights information and services, high incidence/mortality rate of cervical and breast cancers, among others.
The year 2020 is significant as it marks notable milestones for the advancement of gender equality not only in Fiji but also around the world, she said, adding that this is a pivotal year as this year's theme is "I Am Generation Equality: Realizing Women's Rights - for an equal Future."
The minister stressed that gender equality is no longer an option, it is the best chance they have in meeting some of the most pressing challenges now from climate crisis to economic calamity and violence against women and girls.
The minister attributed violence against women and girls in the island nation to gender-based discrimination and social norms and gender stereotypes.