EVAWG work must continue: BIRTH FIJI Coordinator

BIRTH Fiji Team

Work on the elimination of violence against women and girls (EVAWG) needs to continue until every girl and woman is safe from the risk of being abused and discriminated against due to their gender.

These are the sentiments of Nisha Khan, who is the Coordinator for Building Innate Resilience Through Hearts (BIRTH Fiji), a grantee partner of Women’s Fund Fiji since 2021.

Nisha Khan- BIRTH Fiji Coordinator

Based in the western division, BIRTH Fiji was established in 2019 to provide free counselling services to individuals and families. With a mission to build strength and resilience amongst survivors of abuse and discrimination through assistance with self-acceptance and help with the growth of survivors, BIRTH Fiji has a regenerative system that not only removes stigma but creates a safe environment that serve as a form of hope for survivors of mental, physical, financial or/and emotional abuse and discrimination.

Through a Sustainability Grant from Women’s Fund Fiji, BIRTH Fiji received support for organisational strengthening to help them deliver their activities more effectively. They have since developed into a professional organisation, moving from a small group of skilled and empathetic female counselors providing the services to now a registered organisation with proper polices and procedures in place.

Their services continue to contribute to the growth of survivors as well as have them understand better their human rights.

With a core focus on providing mental health support, through interactions with women, girls, and children, BIRTH Fiji engages in a wide range of activities that contributes to women empowerment and livelihood improvement. Some of their work highlights to date includes:

  • Raising awareness in rural remote areas on gender, gender-based violence, domestic violence, mental health, healthy and unhealthy relationships; providing support with communications skills, anger management, positive parenting, and holding women’s access to justice workshops. The organisation also provided support on coping during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote safety and wellbeing, and also provides budgeting support to clients from rural communities upon request;
  • Providing humanitarian support when needed- and in doing so, distributing information, education and communications materials alongside food packs/vouchers so that women could have access to important contacts such as the Domestic Violence helpline, lifeline, child helpline, and other emergency support services;
  • Providing support to women needing access to health/medical services, legal services, and other access to justice services;
  • Supporting women volunteers study and undergo skills training so that they can be agents of change in their communities;
  • Providing women with ongoing support to live independently after leaving abusive relationships;
  • Partnering with other organisations and networks to promote women’s empowerment and end violence against women;
  • Helping rehabilitate women impacted by mental health to live a meaningful life;
  • Providing counselling and mental health support to the vulnerable groups in rural communities;
  • Providing support to women on CV preparations, job search, trainings, and setting career goals;
  • Providing support to women in emergency need of safe accommodation, and psychological support and material needs;
  • Assisting a number of young expectant mothers with healthcare and legal reporting requirements in order to cope, this includes psychosocial support towards safety and wellbeing;
  • Providing support to women caregivers and bedridden women support- women supported with skills trainings, as well as transportation to access medical services, providing ambulatory aids such as wheelchairs; and aiding with food rations and diapers for the most-needy cases;
  • Conducting Saturday classes for children who needed extra support for motivation to study and to learn to study better;
  • Helping school students who are at risk of dropping out from school due to mental health challenges return to finish studies; and
  • Assisting fire victim families with immediate needs while recovering from the shock to seek further assistance.

Between 2019-2021, BIRTH Fiji held a total of 1778 counselling sessions with 1203 clients who accessed its counselling services. This is exclusive of community awareness sessions and humanitarian support provided by the organisation.

Ms Khan said “What works is the quality of the counselling sessions and ongoing support in other aspects of their lives to assist them to take charge and make informed choices to demand their human rights to be free from discrimination and abuse. A genuine interest in the lives of the women that are being assisted and comprehensive care and support as mental wellness encompasses the basis needs as well as psychological support and skills trainings,” she added.

Also of importance is that “people and organisations that are passionate about EVAWG must support the service provision by empowering each other no matter how small or big the services/organisations are,” she said.

So far 20 women have undergone ongoing upskilling and trainings in providing counselling and social work support- 8 are currently volunteering for BIRTH Fiji while others have moved on to other opportunities.

This year a group of women supported by BIRTH Fiji in income generation projects to provide for their families harvested a two-acre plot of cassava. These women have undergone trainings to enhance their ability to earn a living.

BIRTH Fiji acknowledges the support from the Australian Government through Women’s Fund Fiji, and networking partners and stakeholders in Fiji. Through Women’s Fund Fiji support, BIRTH Fiji has been linked to and managed to secure funding from other donor/funding agencies such as the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Wantok Fund, Urgent Action Fund Asia & Pacific, Commonwealth Fund, and AVI Child Safeguarding volunteering Hub.