Arietta Tuitoga and co

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[00:00:00] This recording was made up a second the Asia Pacific Outgames human rights conference, held in Wellington, New Zealand in March 2011. I'm, [00:00:11] and I'm from Fiji. I work for rainbow Women's Network, Fiji and the woman's project officer. And what we do is we work with gay women, bisexual Libyans, and also sex workers, because we have some of our members who are gay, but also, you know, self employed through sex work, and are there are other women as well, who, who like our space, who are not gay, no sex workers, but for them, they say that they are marginalized, but really addressing the root level. And because I think we've created a safe space, this is our third year, they're also part of our group. So yeah, we've been you know, we we welcome them into our group, and they differently and so yeah, because they part of [00:01:07] actually do part time work with rainbow Women's Network Fiji, I have a full time job. I must admit, I am well educated. And I'm here at the apt games to try and meet other women like both well educated women because in Fiji, we do have gay women that do have good jobs, but we feel that they prefer to be invisible. I think it's time now that we gave women actually start being concerned about women gay rights, which is really non existent in Fiji now. So what I want to do is go out into the workplace, and try and form a support group and, and stand up for our women gay rights. [00:02:01] When when you say they prefer to be invisible, why why is that, [00:02:04] um, for fear of losing their job. [00:02:08] Fiji is very small, we very close knit. Some of us even me, I'm not out yet. And some of us prefer to be like that, you know, super well, Fiji is such a small place and to be out and gay is very, you know, it's quite scary. Because there's a lot of discrimination. There's a lot of biases. And for us women, well, we we preferred to be, you know, safely tucked away in the closet, but we feel that now it's time for some of us to come out and, you know, be recognized as gay women. [00:02:49] Because that homophobia or that level of scaring us, has it increased? Or has it always been there. [00:02:56] It's always been there for us in Fiji. We predominantly Christian state colonialism, boating Christianity, and it still instilled in our families, you know, and from my personal point of view, quite a few of the gay women that I have met with their family have found out that they are gay, they've been disowned by their family. So I think what we need to do is create an awareness amongst our community as well as the families, that it's really okay to be gay. And we've had public demonstrations from one of the main religious groups, and that doesn't help either. So yeah, surprisingly, even though we've gone through a few military close, our current military government is quite supportive of gay rights. Last year, they decriminalized homosexuality. So that's a start. Yeah. So I think now, if a few all of us start standing up for gay rights, I think the momentum and the you know, it will start growing and and our gay community will start coming out. And yeah, [00:04:12] was that was that a big fight to get decriminalization? [00:04:17] No, I don't I don't think so. It was already in the 1997 constitution. But I think also, I think in terms of human rights, I think they beginning to, to be more aware. And because I think, you know, we have other we have game men who are at that level that also has influence had some influence on it being decriminalized, and also from past, lobbying and advocacy by other gay, gay, other gay people, you know, in Fiji at the time when it started, the discussion started in 1997. Yeah, and also, I think one of the concerns for me to personally, I've been coming to a few the gay meetings in New Zealand, one of which was, is a love life, for know, which is usually specifically for HIV and AIDS and targeting MSM. And I remember when I came in, like 2000, in nine, one of the things I realized that there is also not only in Fiji, the visibility of lesbian women, but also in the Pacific, specifically in the South Pacific. And one of the things I'd like to see that maybe in the next, you know, Asian, the Pacific that there will be other women from other Pacific Islanders here, instead of just women from Fiji, because there's usually only women from Fiji, or otherwise, women from the Pacific who are quite, you know, living overseas, like individually and Australia, but it will be nice to get someone from the island, you know, you know, maybe they have, you know, because I know that I'm sure they have issues as well that they'd like to voice. But I suppose it's the, you know, those cornerstones of the Pacific, which is [00:05:59] cultural. [00:06:01] And of those that's, that's drove back for them to, you know, step up and but this is a start. [00:06:08] Can you tell me a wee bit about the rainbow Women's Network? [00:06:12] Rainbow Women's Network is actually fairly new. We started in 2009. And the idea came about when we had our first workshop for marginalized women, women, sex workers and gay women at grassroot level. And the women themselves found out what they really wanted just specifically a woman's network, you know, for support and stuff like that. So that's how we came about. We're in the middle of registering. And our management board consists of our community sex workers, and gay women at grassroot level, they make all the decisions, we find the money, we do workshops, we facilitate workshops, we bring in women, other women like Fiji women's rights movement to give a talk and tell them you know, what, really the basic rights that we pass speech in events. Last week, International Women's Day We launched for reclaimed the night. But this year, we we not only want to do workshop, we also want to do activities for income generating activities, because most of our members really are unemployed. So we want to concentrate on that this year. And we will practice a with a first lesbian woman's network. And yeah, and yeah, and our success stories, their support for slightly support groups we have we just sit around a bowl of have a bowl of yellow ball and we talk about issues. And that's where all the stories of them and SM members come to the meeting. They also bring in some of their friends as well. So our membership is actually growing, as well to see what's what size [00:07:55] membership do you currently have? [00:07:58] At the moment? No, we have like I said, we quite small we have registered year 50 and non registered members, we have quite a lot. We also want to move on to women at university. The youth we want to target the youth as well, too. So yeah, it's it's it's growing. [00:08:21] I know that the session is about to start, but just one last question. If somebody was listening to this tape and 50 years time, what would you like to say to them? [00:08:29] Well, I hope I don't want to say if someone was listening to this tape, I'm hoping that when we long gone that they'll be about 10,000 lesbians all hidden in the closet in Fiji dancing. Wow. So you know, I mean, I must admit that I'm here. I have actually had to lie to my boss. I mean, I couldn't tell him coming to the game. She wouldn't have given me leave. So yeah, that's that's how it is now. So in the next 10 years, I hope all you lesbians out in Fiji and, you know, stand up for your rights. [00:09:04] Yeah, I would feel the same way as well. Maybe in the next 30 years or once we leave this planet that there'll be more voices, women, lesbian, invisible, invisible voices coming to meetings like this and sharing and sharing your stories because I think it's important for for people to know and it's also building networks.

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