Since 2015 DIVA for Equality 2015 has created and grown a networked mutual aid and care system in Fiji for aid and support to our constituencies. Since March 2020 (Ongoing) in particular, we have consolidated this work due to frequent and severe cyclones and resultant floods, and COVID19.
In this period to date we have assisted upward of 150 villages and around 20 informal settlements (over 10,000 most-affected rural and maritime households to date multiple times) and informal settlements around Fiji, with direct aid also to 1500 further poor families in informal settlements. This ranges from unconditional cash transfers, food aid, household items and repair, SRHR commodities and basic health supplies, building materials, safety equipment for outdoor work for community women-led projects and protection of biodiversity, food, water, housing and other basic needs, and much more.
We also supplied 26,000 meals in 2020 as part of a Meal-a-day ‘DIVA Love Meals’ school food programme during 2020. LoveMeals ensures that some of the children from women-led, single-and grandparent, most at-risk and marginalised households in the central division and most-disaster-affected areas get one main local, nutritious meal per day at school. This was instituted because of a rapid study by the Fiji Ministry for Education in mid 2020 that showed that over 35,000 children (and we think this is a VERY small subset of the real situation) were not returning to school after lockdowns because of lack of money for food, school lunches, travel, etc. The Department of Social Welfare also showed that half of all pregnant women are showing signs of malnutrition since March 2020, which is a key indicator of household rising poverty. We wanted to ease the burden of poor parents, especially at-risk women-led households in our networks, and ensure at least 1 meal per day at 7 schools with the largest populations of high-need families in the Central division.
Through the LoveMeals programme, 13 long-term and at-risk unemployed LBTQ+ women and gender non-binary people were also provided with decent paid work for 6 months as paid Community catering teams and the majority of the 2 teams are now also engaged in micro-enterprise projects supported by DIVA for Equality throughout 2021. Some have also found paid work. All members of the programme received formal written work references (most for the first time in their lives) for their CVs, and are being supported in various ways to go onto training and work opportunities, building on confidence, capacities and skills gained through the LoveMeals project. This is an example of feminist methodologies used in DIVA projects over and above basic project outputs and with medium to longterm outcomes.
The schools in which we worked have indicated that they are extremely pleased with the support, attended the Certificate ceremony as did FWCC and UNWomen leaders, and we have received many messages through schools and directly from parents that children would not have been able to attend without the support of LoveMeals. In this time of exacerbated poverty where we are starting to see danger of regression on human rights, gender, poverty and school attendance figures for the first time in 2-3 decades, this work is urgent and critical for feminists, the development sector and the State. DIVA continues to fundraise to expand our national Climate Crisis Loss and damage and COVID19 economic response programmes.