28 Oct 2013

Budding young Fiji woman politican faces threats

6:21 pm on 28 October 2013

The first young woman has announced her intention to stand in the Fiji elections but she says she has had to face hostility as a result including rape threats on social media sites.

Roshika Deo wants to stand as an independent in the polls which have been promised for next year.

She says reaction has been a bit overwhelming, but she says she is prepared and committed to starting a campaign based on active citizenship. Sally Round spoke to her.

ROSHIKA DEO: There has been many kinds of reactions. Initially, when there was some media coverage of my intention to stand as an aspiring politician, there was a lot of retaliation on social networking sites by people with actual profiles, even. So there were threats, there's a lot of racism coming out and there was a bit of rape threats. Obviously it has been mostly men... Actually all men. (Laughs) It basically tells me that our society is still very patriarchally entrenched. There's still a lot of misogyny around and representation is still something we have to work very hard to get, and democracy, for that matter. Because without the participation of young people and women, there's no democracy. We make up half of the population.

SALLY ROUND: So will you have a political party? Will you belong to a political party or stand as an independent?

RD: I have not joined any political party. I cannot resonate with any political party at this stage. I'm standing as independent this time around.

SR: How are you going to get your message out there, considering that Fiji has been without a democracy since 2006?

RD: It is very, very difficult. I have been involved in a few pro-democracy movements in the last few years and also with other young women's groups and youth groups that are advocating for democracy. And it has been really difficult. I think the main reason is the fear, the fear that is among the people of what to say, what not to say. It will be difficult in terms of trying to get the message to people, but it is difficult, but not impossible. And some of the ways that my team - and we're called Be The Change campaign - that we are are planning to do this is online. Social networking sites is one of the ways that we've identified and also going out into the communities and talking just about the issues.

SR: Do you see any difficulties with how the electoral arrangements have been made under the new constitution for you to stand as an MP?

RD: Yep. The way the electoral system has been designed was a shocker, because this is not what has been discussed by the state in the last six or so years. When the charter document came out they were talking about four boundaries, and they kept on talking about that up to the very last minute. Then all of a sudden they come up with this one national boundary. So now we have an open list. So the boundary has changed - it's one national boundary and now we have an open list - and what is happening is people are getting confused now. It was always quite confusing because the information was not really getting out to people in the most simple language for them to understand. So when I've been talking to people, they don't know what proportional representation is. They know it's a better system than alternative voting or what we had before, but they just don't know what it is. So I think talking to the people to explain to the people what the system is, how it's going to work is the most difficult task. And that will impact greatly on how any candidate is able to campaign.