Voter education underway in Fiji
Efforts are underway in Fiji to make sure people know how to vote in the upcoming election, the first since the 2006 coup.
Efforts are underway in Fiji to make sure people know how to vote in the upcoming the election, the first since the 2006 coup.
Many of Fiji's 500,000 plus voters are voting for the first time in a system which has been completely overhauled under the principle of one person one vote.
They'll also be faced with a ballot paper of numbered boxes with no party symbols or candidate photos allowed.
Shabhina Khan has been out and about teaching people the mechanics of voting and Sally Round accompanied her to a workshop in Korociriciri, north of Suva.
SHANBHINA KHAN: This is our target group basically, they're basically stay at home mothers and the ones that hardly go out anywhere so that's our target community.
SALLY ROUND: And the Indo-Fijian community is a special target of the group isn't it, why's that?
SK: Actually we did research last year to find out like how the Indo-Fijian communities participate politically. And one of the findings of the research was the Indo-Fijian communities, they have a lack of political participation from this group and they're marginalised because of like the whole conflict that's been happening in the country, since the past 20 years or so. The fear of violence, intimidation, these communities find it difficult to articulate politically so like most of the women in the communities they don't really participate politically, if they do it's basically men. And there's also the political apathy that is amongst the Indo-Fijian community, it's more and that was one of the findings of the research. But we don't restrict participation, if there's i-Taukei women even some men if they are interested in the community education we invite them.
SR: What was their understanding like of what's going to be happening on election day and also in the run-up?
SK: Compared to some of the communities that I've been to previously in the Northern Division, this group seemed to get the ballot marking you know and they did not raise any questions but the only issue they raised was 'I don't know the number or I don't know the candidate's number, if there will be someone helping me.' So that was something a concern that they raised but most of them seem to get it. Like out of the 30 votes I had four invalid votes and three of them were marked on the number that did not represent anyone so it's a good response I think yeah.
SR: So that was a good exercise for them to go through to see what is valid and what's invalid, and what else did they learn?
SK: And the interesting thing about that was three women who are not educated at all, not literate, they did a valid vote, they made an informed decision on whom they will be voting and they cast a valid vote. So those three invalid votes were from someone else. It's a difficult thing to explain the whole thing especially to the women who don't understand the difference between numbers, the difference between the names, it's a bit difficult task. We are going out into the communities but we won't be able to meet all of them so that's a concern.
SR: And the message is that these people that you've got here today will pass the message on to their families.
SK: Yes, that's what we are hoping and some of them who have grasped the concept, the counting, the voting, the process, they will be able to help explain.
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