Michelle Higelin, Deputy Executive Director of ActionAid Australia, said:
“While communities are coping with a lack of shelter, food and water, women of Fiji are inevitably coping with disproportionate impacts of the disaster.
“Women play a critical role in maintaining the food supply in Fiji’s rural areas, and depend on farms as their source of food and income. Women from communities devastated by the cyclone are reporting widespread destruction of crops.
“On top of this, the risk of violence against women always increases in an emergency, and sadly, Fiji will likely be no different where already two out of three women experience some form of violence. This crisis is likely to see that figure increase significantly particularly with thousands now in emergency shelters.”
ActionAid Australia, an international aid organisation specialising in women’s rights in emergencies, is calling on the humanitarian community to ensure protection from sexual and gender based violence is prioritised in the TC Winston response.
“Despite the disproportionate impact that disasters have on women, and the fact that women play such a key role as first responders and ensuring the survival of their families and communities in emergency context, they are often left out of decision making in relief efforts.
“Women are often excluded when decisions are being made about relief priorities, and this means that their needs are ignored or overlooked, and in many cases, their safety is compromised.
“ActionAid is working with local women’s groups in Fiji to ensure that women in remote and vulnerable communities devastated by the cyclone have their say in the relief efforts, and to ensure their needs are met, and their safety is prioritised.
“Women are critical to the wellbeing of communities, particularly in times of crisis. They must be central to decision making, including where resources are allocated.”
Following the Fiji Government’s request for international assistance, ActionAid is deploying staff to Fiji to support local partners, who are already working with rural women’s networks in the worst affected regions to ensure women affected by the crisis access immediate support.
ActionAid has launched an emergency appeal, and is calling on members of the public to donate to support relief efforts. Donations can be made here: www.actionaid.org/australia/info-cyclonewinston