After facing some opposition and intimidation, a student group providing social, educational and support services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI), pinapinaaine, fa’afafine, fakaleiti and other identified students at the University of the South Pacific is now fully affiliated with the USP Students’ Association, Laucala Campus, Suva, Fiji.
The Drodrolagi Movement’s President, Kris Prasad said that the group gained affiliation through a strong and sustained campaign. This included direct lobbying of university stakeholders and an open letter signed by 150 individuals and organisations from around Fiji and the Pacific. “Our members and supporters are very proud of this victory”, he said.
“Despite following due process and being able to demonstrate considerable community support, our initial application to register was rejected by USPSA Laucala Campus Student Council. We then lodged a formal appeal with the USPSA Federal Council who wisely overturned the earlier decision.” said Kris Prasad.
“USP is the premier regional academic institution serving 12 Pacific Island countries. Unfortunately when students enrol at USP, they are automatically placed into certain associations based on their ethnicity and discipline of study. In contrast, the Drodrolagi Movement (also known as droMo) prides itself on being the only affiliated group on campus whose membership is open to all students regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity, citizenry, age, ability, religion, or discipline of study.” Prasad added.
Noelene Nabulivou of feminist collective ‘Women’s Action for Change’ (WAC) said, “WAC warmly congratulates droMo. This outcome has wider significance than the immediate result of USPSA affiliation. During the campaign, droMo members dealt with both personal and structural homophobia that reaffirmed the urgent need for such networks. droMo have also demonstrated that Pacific educational institutions have an important role to play in human rights advancement. This requires full policy compliance with international human rights standards and state commitments, and institutional cultures that celebrate diversity, intersectional identity and fluidity as positive Pacific norms.”
droMo supporter and youth activist, Merewalesi Nailatikau is excited about Drodrolagi’s mandate of action, and the support and awareness that the group is set to provide to members of the LGBTI community, as well as to the USP community at large. “I have every hope that the group will play a positive role in empowering through knowledge, understanding and peaceful dialogue on issues relating to sexuality and reproductive health. Co-existing peacefully in diversity is vital for our progress and development, whatever your sexual orientation.”