Highlights from the Catholic Women's League annual conference and

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					Highlights from the Catholic Women‟s League annual conference and „soli‟

Friday 17 August 2007

Veiqaravi Vakavanua, a traditional ceremony of welcome was extended to
the Chief Guest, His Grace – Archbishop Petero Mataca, this morning at the
Tradewinds Convention Centre symbolizing the importance of this annual
gathering in the Catholic Church calendar. It was a colourful and memorable
event for the 1000 registered participants, representing the membership of
the Catholic Women‟s League in Fiji from the 35 parishes across the 14
provinces of Fiji, including Rabi, Kioa and Rotuma.

They gathered this morning wearing their colourful sulu and jabas, and other
“Sunday best” and following the traditional ceremony, they were also
welcomed by Caroline Narruhn on behalf of the Lami Parish who is host of
the conference. She noted that the preparation committee for the conference
has included a team of volunteers, youth as well as assistance from the
RFMF, in the spirit of the conference theme, “Building a Culture of Peace
through education and poverty alleviation.”

Archbishop Mataca was also chief celebrant for the opening mass and he was
once again welcomed but this time it took a cross cultural approach as the
Krishna family performed the “aarti”, placed a symbolic „red tikka‟ on his
forehead garlanded him a traditional salusalu as he made his way to the
main dais to perform the mass.

During his sermon, Archbishop Mataca commended the conference
participants for their theme, and he spoke of the need for solidarity for
building peace within and beyond the confines of their community. He said
that peacebuilding and solidarity extend beyond the boundaries of the
community and church and across the nation.


“Your Health is in Your Hands”

That‟s the message to members of the Catholic Women‟s League from Dr
Vijay Lakshmi Garimella who led the first workshop session addressing
women‟s health. The conference this year is once again offering free health
check ups, including pap smears and tests for non-communicable diseases,
with assistance from the Oxfam Clinic in Suva.

Speaking on the critical issues of cancers in women, she informed conference
delegates that on average of all the cancers detected in Fiji, 40% are cancers
in women including both cervical and breast cancers and so from the outset,
it was critical that women are reminded of the importance of early detection

for cervical and breast cancer, especially pap smear tests and breast

As a number of participants noted that it was because of fear and ignorance
why many women continue to avoid regular medical checks, Garimella
agreed and said that is why the Oxfam Clinic advocacy now ensures that they
are also demystifying these tests, because it is important to save the lives of

In Fiji, Garimella said, close to 70 to 80 women are being diagnosed with
cervical and breast cancer in Fiji, and it is also affecting women, in every
country every minute, every where in the world, she said “This is a growing
killer of women across the world. 120 women can die every 4 hours! “, she
added. She further noted that women in developing countries, such as in our
region, are the most vulnerable because they are not accessing health checks
and services as readily as women in more developed countries.

Garimella noted the importance of avoiding the risks which make women
more vulnerable to cervical cancer. These risks include having multiple
sexual partners; she also added that a woman is more vulnerable when their
partner is not faithful because this increases the woman‟s vulnerability to
sexually transmitted diseases. Managing the number of children, as well as
not smoking is also key to prevention.

Garimella also highlighted young women‟s vulnerability to cervical cancer and
said that it was important to encourage young women and teenagers to delay
the start of sexual activity, as this is also one way that they can ensure they
have a healthier reproductive health later in life. This is also important to
also manage the increasing number of unwanted teenage pregnancies in our
society today.

Responding to a question, Garimella advised participants that the female
family planning protection method “the lube” does not cause cervical cancer,
and she also countered the myth that „douching‟ reduces the vulnerability of
vaginal infections, this is not the case she said. There was also an important
connection made between diabetes.

The participants were then informed participants of the physical warning
signs of cervical cancer, which include – post coital bleedings, irregular
bleeding, unhealthy discharges as well as post menopausal bleeding –
although there are also some less obvious signs such as increased back and
stomach pain including increased levels of tiredness. That is why regular
medical checkups are important.

Dr Garimella demonstrated the Pap smear or screening test: “It is a minor
procedure but it is a life saving procedure; when you come for a test we can
detect any problems and we can treat it.”

Results are generally available within 3 days, although she noted that the
availability of results was reliant on local hospital lab services “It is therefore
also important to follow up and check your results also, this is also your
responsibility and if you don‟t check the results there is no point in having
the tests.”

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women. It has
been noted, she said that breastfeeding keeps both mothers and children
healthy; it was also closely associated to obesity which is also further
associated with non communicable diseases such as diabetes. Women must
also keep a track of family medical histories.

Regular breast examination helps in early detection, Garimella added, as she
demonstrated the methods for inspection and breast checks.

She concluded by reminding delegates the importance of healthy lifestyles –
good nutrition, regular exercise, lots of rest and have a stress free life, “but
last but not the least come for regular check ups so we can treat you before
anything happens.


Father Veremo Dovarua , the rector of the Pacific Regional Seminary, was
introduced by the President of the CWL Fiji, Daini Naulu.

In his presentation “Na Vakavuvuli ni Lotu me baleta na Vuli/Teachings of the
Church on Education” he noted that the Sacred Ecumenical Council has
considered with care how extremely important education is in the life of
humanity, and how its influence continues to influence society: “The
circumstances of our time have made it easier and at once very urgent to
educate young people and also to continue the education of adults.”

Men and women equally, he noted are becoming more aware of their right to
dignity and position of responsibility: “More and more they want to take an
active part in social, economic and political life.”

The development and therefore the development of technology and scientific
research and the new means of communication offer everyone an
opportunity to secure their cultural and spiritual inheritance and develop
closer ties between groups and even between people.

As a result there is an increasing attempt to promote more education – adult
education as well as the primary rights of children. This is resulting in an
increase in the number of schools as well as further development of
educational curriculum and material, but he noted with concern that “…even
though vast numbers of children and young people are still deprived of even
elementary training, and so many others lack a suitable education in which
truth and love are developed together.”

This therefore highlights the critical role of the church based educational
institutions to provide holistic education, “She (the church) has a role in the
progress and development of education.”

As he explained the universal right to education, he noted that he believed
that a true education aims at the formation of the whole human person in the
pursuit of a fulfillment of personal goals during their life as well as the good
of society: “Children and young therefore must be helped with the aid of the
latest advances in psychology and the arts and science of teaching to develop
harmoniously their physical, moral and intellectual endowments so that they
may gradually acquire a mature sense of responsibility in striving endlessly
to form their own lives properly in pursuing true freedom as they surmount
the fortunes of life with courage and constancy.”

A holistic approach to education also includes a positive and prudent sexual
education: “They should be trained to take their part in social life that
properly instructed in the necessary and opportune skills, they can be
become actively involved in various community organisations, open to
conversation/discourse with others and willing to do their best to promote
the common good.”

The church, therefore, must ensure, he said, that children and youth are
never deprived of this right, to ensure that youth receive a holistic education,
“(we must) give attention to the entire field of education, having especially in
mind the need of extending the benefits of a suitable education and training.”

Learning, or education, he stressed does not end when the school day or the
term is over. Parents, he said, are therefore obliged as the primary and
principal educators, to create a family atmosphere, animated by love and
respect, based on faith principles, ensuring a well-rounded personal and
social education of the child: “Hence the family is the first school of the social
virtues that every society needs; Here, too, they find their first experience of
a wholesome human society, and of the Church.”

Family based, family life education also assists in paving the way for future
companionship, future positive relationships, “Let parents, then recognize the
inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress
of God‟s own people.

Civil society, he noted, also has a responsibility to share in the education of
society‟s youth, through the promotion of the values of holistic education
amongst parents and families and also within the schools and institutions
which are built.

The Church, he     reiterated therefore has a special duty to human society
through church     based activities, media and communication, encouraging
group activities   which assist in mental and physical development, youth
associations, as   well as ensuring strong school committees, ultimately to

ensure and deliver a threefold education: “First train the mind of your
children, train the character of your children and train their hearts.´


Taking UNSCr 1325 to our communities

femLINKPACIFIC this afternoon hosted a workshop for the Catholic Women‟s
League for Fiji which brought together the leaders of the 35 parishes
represented at the conference to produce another two colourful peace
banners based on the theme, “My Life, my issue, my peace,” under the
creative guidance of femLINKPACIFIC Community media trainees, Fane
Lomani and Eta Rabuatoka.

During the introduction of the workshop, femLINKPACIFIC‟s Coordinator,
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls highlighted the long association the Catholic Women‟s
League: “Since our formation as a result of the blue ribbon peace vigil and
we have continued to collaborate and work together to promote women‟s
equal participation in decision making from local to national to international
levels because we cannot have sustainable peace without women; We are
proud that we operate a women‟s community radio station – we are
broadcasting this weekend from the Lami Town Council and the women‟s
suitcase radio through our weekend and mobile/rural broadcasts was
launched in partnership with the CWL in 2004 and we broadcast wherever we
can by bringing women from all backgrounds together; We hope that you will
use the opportunity to record your story with us this weekend because we
believe that the more our leaders, our communities hear what women have
to say the more they will be reminded that we all have a role to play in
decision making and the more they can what we all want…Peace - from our
homes to our communities, across Fiji and into our region”

Another highlight workshop session was the launch of a new women‟s media
initiatives, produced with the support of the International Women‟s
Development Agency; the publication is a 14 page A4 booklet designed to
serve as an introduction to UN Security Council resolution 1325, and
everyone agreed that this is only the start of the community based outreach
to take the UN Security Council resolution 1325, titled Women, Peace and
Security to women in the Catholic community across Fiji, especially as the
information is produced in English, Fijian and Hindustani. Members of the
Catholic Women‟s League Lami Parish contributed to the production of the
Fijian translation featured in the booklet, which will also be distributed
through the National Council of Women network and women working in the
mainstream media.

A similar regional media initiative, including the translation of the security
council resolution is being coordinated by femLINKPACIFIC with its regional
media network partners in Tonga (Catholic Women‟s League – Legal Literacy

Project), Bougainville (Leitana Nehan Women‟s Development Agency) and
Solomon Islands (Vois Blong Mere Solomon)

femLINKPACIFIC:Media Initiatives for Women is proud to be a women‟s media
partner of the Catholic Women‟s League since 2004 when we launched our mobile
women‟s community radio station during the Asia Pacific conference of the World
Union of Catholic Women‟s Organisations.
Key sessions of the conference as well as interviews with participants will feature in
upcoming broadcasts hosted by volunteers of our Generation Next project on
femTALK 89.2FM and also available on our website


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