I am happy to share that the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment has also shown great com­mit­ment to­wards en­sur­ing that girls and boys have equal ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, says Min­is­ter.

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In­vited guests French Em­bassy of­fi­cials Fiji As­so­ci­a­tion of Women Grad­u­ates

Ladies and gen­tle­men

Bula Vi­naka and Good evening to you all. I am de­lighted to be here and would like to warmly thank the Or­ga­niz­ers and the Em­bassy of France for the cor­dial in­vi­ta­tion to of­fi­ci­ate and be part of this event.

No list of heroes, ladies and gen­tle­men, is com­plete with­out Malala Yousafzai. I am sure, Malala needs no in­tro­duc­tion, for she has be­come a cham­pion for girls who too of­ten find their voices- and their rights- si­lenced. Through her brav­ery, Malala has be­come the youngest win­ner of the No­bel Peace Prize, and the founder of Malala Fund which is ded­i­cated to raise aware­ness to the so­cial and eco­nomic im­pact of girls’ ed­u­ca­tion and to em­power girls to rise up and de­mand change. This evening, as we all ea­gerly wait to watch the doc­u­men­tary “He named

me Malala” is the life story of Malala Yousafzai; ex­tremely in­spi­ra­tional, this doc­u­men­tary, Ladies and gen­tle­men, is a re­minder that ED­U­CA­TION is the most pow­er­ful plat­form to bring change.

Malala Yousafzai’s story is a real life tes­ti­mony that any­one and ev­ery­one has the courage to fight for change and in­clu­sive free­dom for peo­ple all over the world. This or­di­nary teenage girl with the de­sire to have an ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tion be­came a fighter for her right to ed­u­ca­tion; and an ad­vo­cate for girl’s ed­u­ca­tion. She is the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the voice­less oth­ers who have the same dreams as her to ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. Also an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­am­ple to those who fail to re­alise the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion and more so, ed­u­cat­ing the girl child.

The theme for this year’s In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day, “Pledge for Par- ity: Make it Hap­pen,” calls for greater equal­ity and is an op­por­tu­nity to take con­crete steps to help achieve gen­der par­ity more quickly - to help women and girls achieve their am­bi­tions, call for gen­der-bal­anced lead­er­ship, ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and reach­ing to their highest po­ten­tial. Ladies and gen­tle­men, ed­u­ca­tion is one of the fun­da­men­tals to hu­man devel­op­ment. I have been an ed­u­ca­tor for sev­eral years and I have at­trib­uted my suc­cess to the ed­u­ca­tion mileage I had gone through. I have said in my pub­lic speak­ing en­gage­ments be­fore and I re­it­er­ate today, that many so­cial hard­ships like poverty can be over­come through ed­u­ca­tion. The Right to Ed­u­ca­tion in Fiji’s Con­sti­tu­tion states that “ev­ery per­son has the right to early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion, pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion and fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion”. Gov­ern­ment is also re­quired to take rea­son­able mea­sures, us­ing avail­able re­sources, to achieve the pro­gres­sive re­al­i­sa­tion of these rights”. I am happy to share that the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment has also shown great com­mit­ment to­wards en­sur­ing that girls and boys have equal ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. Our Honor­able Prime Min­is­ter strongly re­it­er­ates that ed­u­ca­tion re­mains the corner­stone of his Gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies and re­mains rigidly com­mit­ted to it. As such, our Hon. PM is adamant in en­sur­ing that “no child gets left be­hind”. As such, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion is al­lo­cated big­gest bulk of the bud­get amount­ing to $432.2 mil­lion this year (2016), an in­crease of $30.6 mil­lion from 2015. This shows the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment’s un­prece­dented com­mit­ment and in­vest­ment in Fiji’s ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor. Amongst the other mod­ern de­vel­op­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams; are

Free Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gramme which cov­ers the tuition grants for pre-school, pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion.

The Bus Fare As­sis­tance Pro­gramme has been es­tab­lished and cur­rently it as­sists more than 111,000 chil­dren in both pri­mary and sec­ondary schools across the coun­try.

The Gov­ern­ment has also taken a step fur­ther in equip­ping stu­dents with mod­ern gad­gets to en­sure they are con­nected to the global devel­op­ment through the es­tab­lish­ment of the Dig­i­tal Lit­er­acy Pro­gramme.

There are also plans to re­cruit 350 more teach­ers; of which 250 will be for pri­mary schools and 100 for sec­ondary schools. This is to im­prove the cur­rent teacher stu­dent ra­tio.

The Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment has also in­vested in the devel­op­ment of tech­ni­cal col­leges for both girls and boys to meet the skill and la­bor de­mand of in­vestors. It will con­tinue to pro­vide fund­ing sup­port for the Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Loans Scheme (TELS), the Na­tional Top­pers Schol­ar­ship Scheme.

An anal­y­sis af­ter the 2011 cen­sus also con­firms that the over­all ter­tiary grad­u­a­tion level of women is be­ing higher at a 54 to 46 per­cent­age ra­tio than men. Ladies and gen­tle­men, in that con­text, you would agree, that Ed­u­ca­tion is the key to break­through poverty cy­cles; when a girl is ed­u­cated, she is able to stand up for her­self, make in­formed de­ci­sions and has the free­dom to live an in­de­pen­dent life, in do­ing so she be­comes the pow­er­ful agent of change in her so­ci­ety.

And while Fiji per­se­veres in its ef­fort to en­sure that ev­ery child re­gard­less of their gen­der, sta­tus, lo­ca­tion or their back­ground has ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion; the onus is on par­ents and fam­i­lies to en­sure that they rea­chout and make max­i­mum use of these op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to ed­u­cate their chil­dren. The onus also lies with each in­di­vid­ual to have the pas­sion and drive to ac­quire the skills needed to achieve their goals. Not only to ex­cel aca­dem­i­cally but also as­pire to be­come good lead­ers, go­ing be­yond your chal­lenges, to reach to greater heights in your life. Malala is a liv­ing proof that lead­er­ship come in all gen­ders, na­tion­al­i­ties and age. This young woman has shown that with courage, any­one with any age can be a his­tory maker; Malala’s story hon­ours the strength and re­silience of all women around the globe. As the Min­is­ter for Women, Chil­dren and Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion I am com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity in na­tional ed­u­ca­tion laws, poli­cies and plans and in ad­dress­ing gen­der-based vi­o­lence in ed­u­ca­tional set­tings. Ladies and gen­tle­men, as we watch this film, let’s all be re­minded that as we re­build our fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and our na­tion from the af­ter­math of TC Win­ston, let’s not for­get our young girls who in the best of their abil­ity con­tinue to search for knowl­edge through tem­po­rary learn­ing cen­tres. Get­ting our chil­dren out of tem­po­rary struc­tures and tents and back into proper class­rooms is one of the Gov­ern­ment’s top pri­or­i­ties. As such last week, “An Adopt a School Pro­gramme” was an­nounced by our Hon­ourable Prime Min­is­ter, Voreqe Bain­i­marama; the pro­gramme aims to help re­build Fi­jian schools that have been dev­as­tated by Cy­clone Win­ston. As in­di­vid­ual, fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, this is an op­por­tu­nity for us to stand up for those who need our as­sis­tance, let’s give them our sup­port so that ev­ery in­di­vid­ual girl and boy goes to school. And just as well said by Malala in one of her fa­mous quotes, “Knowl­edge is Power, One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” This is the time, when we as one na­tion, one peo­ple need to raise to the chal­lenge, to sup­port “An Adopt a School Pro­gramme” to help the chil­dren of Fiji re­sume their nor­mal lives, to progress their ed­u­ca­tion in proper fa­cil­i­ties.” And I urge all of you to spread the mes­sage of the im­por­tance of the Adopt a School pro­gramme in as­sist­ing Fiji to get back on its feet. Ladies and gen­tle­men, I take this op­por­tu­nity to com­mend the Em­bassy of France and the Fiji As­so­ci­a­tion of Women Grad­u­ates for their great courage and achieve­ments in pro­mot­ing women’s ed­u­ca­tion in Fiji. I also thank you all for your on­go­ing sup­port to­wards ed­u­ca­tion and em­pow­er­ment of women; the plan to de­liver and as­sist the ed­u­ca­tion of one woman is a move to­wards clos­ing the gap of gen­der in­equal­i­ties.

In that con­text, I am also pleased to know that Fiji As­so­ci­a­tion of Women Grad­u­ates since its in­cep­tion in 2004 has suc­cess­fully sup­ported eight (8) young women who stud­ied in the fields of Au­to­mo­tive and Elec­tri­cal En­gi­neer­ing, Plumb­ing, Sheet Metal, Civil En­gi­neer­ing, and Ter­tiary teach­ing in Agri­cul­tural Science. A cur­rent schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ent is also study­ing Air­craft En­gi­neer­ing (Me­chan­i­cal) at Fiji Na­tional Univer­sity. In Fiji, we may never have a girl go through what Malala did; how­ever, I firmly be­lieve that with courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion money raised from tonight’s event will go to­wards a wor­thy cause, the Fiji As­so­ci­a­tion of Women Grad­u­ates Schol­ar­ship Fund which sup­ports young women study­ing in non-tra­di­tional fields. With those words ladies and gen­tle­men, as we will see the story of the great Malala, it is my sin­cere hope that this movie will in­spire each one of us to chal­lenge our­selves, to re­alise the strength we have and that each one of us can be a leader within our own spheres of in­flu­ence and com­mit to take prag­matic ac­tion to ac­cel­er­ate gen­der par­ity.

I close with the be­lief that Malala re­sides in each one of us and I sin­cerely hope that we will awaken the brave Malala within us to drive the pos­i­tive change and in­spire the world. It is my hon­our to pledge our Min­istry’s con­tri­bu­tion of $5000 to­wards this wor­thy cause. Ladies and gen­tle­men, with these words, I wish you all a pleas­ant evening.

Vi­naka, Danyawad and Thank You.

Photo: Min­istry of Women, Chil­dren and Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion

French Em­bassy Chargé d’af­faires, Jules Ir­rmann with the Min­is­ter for Women, Chil­dren and Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion, Rosy Ak­bar at the of­fi­cial screen­ing of the movie, “He Named Me Malala,”

and In­ter­na­tional Women’.

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