Women’s Fund Fiji (WFF) is the first national women’s fund in Fiji and the Pacific region. It is the resource mobilisation arm of the women’s and feminist movement in Fiji. The Fund provides financial and non-financial resources and support to women’s groups and networks in Fiji. “Not only do we provide support to formal, established women’s groups and NGOs. We also support informal initiatives by women and non-binary networks, who work to empower themselves and to secure recognition of their rights,” explains Senior Program        Manager, Kuini Rabo. “And we provide support and reach women who live in more rural remote, maritime island zones areas in Fiji.” WFF mobilises and distributes financial and non-financial resources and through its work, promotes the rights of women and gender-diverse people. The fund also brings a strong focus to one of its thematic areas, climate activism and environmental justice – areas of work supported by Mama Cash.   

WFF was founded in 2017 as part of the Australian government’s initiative ‘Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development’. As intended, the fund registered as an independent NGO in 2021. Rabo is proud of what has been achieved in five years. “We have built up a strong women and feminist fund in a short time. Thanks to our flexible and adaptive funding structure, with our valuing our relationship and partnership with grantee partners, we are now an important source of support for 38 women’s groups in Fiji. And we know how to reach women in previously unreached communities.”  

WFF invests in strengthening women’s leadership skills, as well as in organisational strengthening. The fund is conscious of making its programmes and grantmaking as accessible, flexible and adaptive as possible. “For example, we hold information sessions for groups that may want to submit an application to us. We’ve kept our forms as simple as possible, and groups can apply in their own language. They may even submit an audio or video recording, if they prefer that over a written request. We also do not ask for long written reports when explaining how they used a grant, reporting is kept simple and easy to understand.” And if the fund sees that certain groups or regions are underrepresented during the annual application round, it will organise extra information sessions or take other steps to understand what kind of support groups most need.  

WFF offers three different types of grants. With its ‘sustainability grants’, WFF supports organisations or initiatives for a period of 2 to 3 years. The ‘movement building’ grants enable activists to participate in events that strengthen the feminist movement in Fiji, or facilitate exchanges with other groups within the international women’s movement. There are also the ‘resilience grants’ that WFF partners can apply for in times of crisis, such as during the COVID pandemic, or in the aftermath of extreme weather events such as tropical hurricanes, or for organisational or program activity crises that require immediate intervention and support. 

Tropical hurricanes have hit Fiji hard in recent years. Inevitably, responding to climate change and its disastrous effects on women in Fiji is one of WFF’s particular areas of focus. “Many of the groups we support are being heavily impacted by climate change. But it is often new for them to think and speak in terms of climate justice. We’re trying to make some headway there. Together, we take a close look at how climate injustice plays a role in the events that affect them. An example is a group called Rise beyond the Reef (RBTR), which is primarily concerned with the economic empowerment of women in a specific remote rural and coastal area in Fiji. Violent storms or landslides that destroy houses are increasingly common in that area. The group has sharpened its focus on supporting women’s participation in building houses, and strengthening women’s resilience in dealing with successive natural disasters and a recovery phase that is sustainable.” Another example is the Women Fisheries Fiji Network (WIFN), which represents the interests of women fishers and has now started providing climate adaptation workshops. These women and their families live by collecting seaweed and fishing for crustaceans and mollusks for personal consumption and for sale. “Rising ocean temperatures are depleting animal and plant species, leading to loss of income and greater food insecurity.”  

Another group that WFF has long supported, the Naitasiri Women in Dairy Group, is also grappling with the effects of climate change. This collective of 31 women dairy farmers in the interior of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, initially focused on challenging and dismantling the power structures in an industry dominated by men. In the meantime, floods caused by heavy rainfall and tropical cyclones have been so disruptive and damaging to agricultural infrastructure that the climate crisis has also become an inescapable theme in their work. “The Dairy Group is becoming an important voice in Fiji on climate injustice issues. Supporting groups like these is really important to bring about change on all necessary levels.” 

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