Fiji Speaker of the House of Representatives takes up UNFPA High-Level Champion Role

17 February 2015

UNFPA Pacific, Suva (February 17, 2015) - In a groundbreaking partnership for the region, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Pacific Sub-Regional Office and the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives of Fiji, Dr Jiko Luveni announced Tuesday, February 17, Dr Luveni's acceptance of the role of being the UNFPA Pacific High-Level Champion.

"I accepted it with a deep sense of responsibility," Dr Jiko said to a gathering of stakeholders at the official announcement of her status in Suva, Fiji.

"The mandate areas the UNFPA was given by the United Nations General Assembly includes some of the most socially and culturally sensitive areas of our lives, but they are also development areas very close to my heart."

In accepting to be the UNFPA Pacific High-Level Champion, Dr Jiko has agreed to advocate at all levels of society for behavioral change in the mandate areas of the organization, in particular in the areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights and youth.

Dr Jiko said she felt a sense of urgency in advocating for change for the better in such issues when one considered the impact a vastly increased accessibility to all sorts of information the internet and telephone networks has enabled for people, particularly young people.

"The people in our communities, villages, provinces and however else we are grouped, especially our children and young people, must hear facts from us, not the internet. And they must hear it before they develop practices that we may never be able to wean from them," Dr Luveni said.

"Leaders, whether heads of faith-based groups, state or traditional leaders, we are all collectively responsible for the dissemination of correct and timely information on issues around sexual and reproductive health and rights; the dynamics of gender equality and maternal health or how and the benefits of planning the number of children we have according to what we can afford, and the medical benefit of spacing children.

"We have to be compassionate and care enough to speak frankly to our children and youth. Socio-cultural status quo that used to prevent a discussion between children and parents of topics like why condoms will not only prevent unplanned pregnancies but can also protect you from a HIV infection, must begin from home."

The UNFPA Pacific Sub-Regional Office had worked with Dr Luveni in her previous capacity as head of a ministry that, as a development agency, UNFPA worked with closely, and as head of Fiji government delegations to regional and international meetings. Dr Jiko is also a former UNFPA Pacific staff member.

UNFPA Pacific Director and Representative Dr Laurent Zessler said the organization was humbled by Dr Luveni's acceptance of the role adding that to champion or advocate for a particular issue, one would have to sincerely believe in the cause and in the potential change for the better.

"It is to our advantage that she had not lost her personal interest and commitment to the various mandate areas of the UNFPA - from reproductive health issues to those surrounding violence against women," Dr Zessler said. 
"In her position as the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives in Fiji, Dr Jiko Luveni is in a position to convince her contemporaries that fundamental to all other development initiatives, is the need to address population-related issues.

"We see in Dr Luveni an articulate and passionate advocate for behavior-change in sexual and reproductive health and rights-related issues. Dr Luveni was unanimously voted to her position and we have absolute faith in her ability to work across political affiliation, ethnicity and faith."

In her capacity as the UNFPA Pacific High-Level Champion, Dr Luveni will be involved in global and regional engagements; she will also be involved in the work of UNFPA towards achieving the Samoa Pathway, which is the 2014 Outcome Statement of the Third Conference of the Small Island Developing States in Samoa, and achieving the Family Planning 2020 project goal, that by then, 2020, 120 million more women in the world will have access contraceptives and information about planning their family.