IWTC Women's GlobalNet #276

Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide 

June 26, 2005

FIJIAN FEMINIST WHO FOUGHT FOR PEACE, JUSTICE AND EQUALITY IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC

Amelia Rokotuivuna

August 7, 1941 -June 2, 2005

On June 2, 2005, a woman of extraordinary energy, passion and ability who dedicated her life to promoting peace, democracy and social justice, died in Suva, Fiji, at the age of 63.

Amelia Rokotuivuna was a community leader far ahead of her time, who grew up in the Fiji mining town of Vatukoula and went on to become head girl of Adi Cakobau School, Fiji's most prestigious college for girls.

She was a founder of the Fiji YWCA, joining Australians Ruth Lechte and Anne S. Walker in 1962 to begin the programmes of an activist organization that worked for peace and democracy in a multi-cultural Fiji. In 1967, she attained a diploma in social administration and development from the University of Swansea in Wales, returning to become General Secretary of the Fiji YWCA in 1973.

For the next two decades in this position, Amelia led the fight on issues such as equal rights for women, a nuclear-free Pacific, political reform and multi-culturalism. She advocated for those without a voice, reminding the great and powerful of their obligations to the poor and disadvantaged. Referring to her charismatic leadership of the Y during those years, Dr. Wadan Narsey, formerly an economics lecturer at the University of the South Pacific (USP) and regular columnist with the Fiji Times, wrote: “As an Indo-Fijian non-Christian male, I found myself on YWCA committees on issues such as economic justice, constitutional reform, the anti-nuclear movement and numerous other important issues of the time.”

In furtherance of her anti-nuclear beliefs, Amelia took centre stage at the non-governmental meeting held parallel to the first United Nations world conference on women in Mexico City, 1975, speaking out against nuclear testing and raising the awareness of the world regarding the continuing abuse of the Pacific and its peoples by nuclear powers.

The Fiji coups in May 1987 demonstrated the real character of Amelia.

Never was her fearlessness and true grit more splendidly displayed. She defied many of her own people to commit to a multicultural, tolerant and caring vision of Fiji. Amelia, among others, was imprisoned briefly for her beliefs.

From 1992 to 1995, Amelia worked as Programme Secretary for Advocacy for the World YWCA in Geneva. At the time of her death she was President of the Fiji YWCA Board of Directors and a lecturer at USP.

Amelia leaves behind a son, Peceli, who continues her work as a community activist, brothers Apisalome (Mudu) and Sevuloni, sister Veniana and their families, and the family of sister Manaini (dec.). She will be sorely missed by family and friends alike, but her life spent in the search for peace, equality and justice in Fiji and the South Pacific will be forever cherished and celebrated.

Written by Anne S. Walker, AM, with excerpts from eulogies by Fiji Senator 'Atu Emberson Bain and Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, Vice President of Fiji.

 

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