Inspiring a New Generation of Fijians

Posted by Joseph Crook
March 6, 2014
First Lady Michelle Obama and Deputy Secretary Higginbottom With 2014 IWOC Awardee Roshika Deo of Fiji

Roshika Deo's "Be the Change" campaign is inspiring a new generation of Fijian youth and women to believe in democracy and the power of civic participation after more than seven years of military dictatorship since a coup in 2006.  The rate of women's political participation in Fiji is among the lowest in the world, but in 2013 Roshika was among the very first candidates -- male or female -- to announce her intention to stand for election.  With the voting age lowered to 18 for the 2014 elections, more than one third of Fiji’s electorate will cast their votes for the first time.

Since the launch of her campaign, Roshika has creatively used both traditional and new media to challenge Fiji's military government and give voice to the concerns of young people and women.  Her efforts, while extremely popular, have also made Roshika a target for public criticism and harassment, with some on social media calling for her to be "taken to the cassava patch" (a local euphemism for rape).  To date, she has insisted on running as an independent candidate despite interest from more established parties hoping to benefit from her gender, popularity, ethnicity, and youth.

Roshika’s candidacy is the culmination of more than six years of political activism.  Ms. Deo has led a number of popular rights campaigns in Fiji, including the "One Billion Rising" and has been a key supporter of "Take Back the Night" campaigns to protest violence against women.  Roshika has also worked to support the Talking Books Library Project at the Fiji School of the Blind; renovations at Dilkusha Girls Home; Dose of Hope project to create awareness on HIV/AIDs; leading, mobilizing, and conducting a project to improve facilities at the St Giles Hospital's kitchen; work with the Sujit Kumar Trust and work with children at risk.

We admire Roshika's courage and the inspiration she has provided across racial lines for young people and women.  Congratulations, Roshika!

While the United States supports an increase in the participation of women in the political process everywhere in the world, we strongly adhere to a policy of non-interference in domestic affairs and do not endorse individual candidates for election.

About the Author: Joseph Crook serves as a Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji.

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