News

Women-friendly spaces – a relief for post-disaster recovery

29 March 2021
Fijian Prime Minister visited the WFS in the North earlier this year
Fijian Prime Minister visited the WFS in the North earlier this year

Communities in the areas worst hit by Tropical Cyclone Yasa (TC Yasa), particularly women and girls, are benefitting from services provided by Women Friendly Spaces (WFS). WFS is created as safe havens attached to and an extension of the sub-divisional health system in Bua, Macuata, and Cakaudrove in the Northern Division in response to the relief and recovery efforts for the communities who were severely affected by TC Yasa.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation supported by the Government of Australia and UNFPA Pacific, created the WFS. as a safe space where women including young women and adolescent girls can access a range of information, services, and commodities to support and maintain their dignity and well-being. One of the main humanitarian responses provided by the UNFPA globally is the establishment of women-friendly spaces, working with local partners, where women and girls are intended primary beneficiaries. The women-friendly spaces will also ensure access to awareness-raising and sensitization sessions in affected communities, psychosocial support, multi-sectoral referrals, and related services for survivors of Gender-Based Violence.

The Fijian Minister for Women, Children, and Poverty Alleviation Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa officially opened the UNFPA Pacific and the Australian Government supported WFS in the Northern Division in January this year, in a collective and holistic recovery response to TC Yasa.

"The disproportionate impact of natural disasters on women and girls demands a targeted approach if we are to truly leave no one behind in our recovery efforts. The creation of women-friendly spaces is one such targeted approach," said the Minister. She said the Women Friendly spaces is a result of a lot of logistics and planning, amongst all involve to fill a critical role in the context of the emergency response by providing a haven for women and young people to socialize and re-build their social networks, access safe and non-stigmatizing GBV support, including psychosocial, medical or other social support, and also to receive sexual and reproductive health services. The Minister concluded by saying that WFS is established with the noble aim to help our women recover from TC Yasa.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, the UNFPA engaged and deployed twelve (12) midwives to the north to guide the WFS facilitators.

The Fijian Prime Minister Hon. Frank Bainimarama during his tour to the north, visited the WFS in Lekutu Health Centre. “WFS is a wonderful idea and is very impressive. The inclusion of midwives in the implementation of WFS is a bonus,” highlighted the Prime Minister.

The post-Cyclone Yasa response by UNFPA has been supported by the United Nations Emergency Response Fund (UN CERF); the Government of Australia has been a key donor partner in the areas of reproductive health and gender-based violence emergency response efforts.

A total of six WFS sites are currently operational in six locations in the north. The WFS will be upscaled to three more locations in April this year with the support from the Government of Australia.

The WFS operation hours are from 9 am to 4 pm daily, six days a week with potentially reduced hours on the weekends.