Thursday marked the best day for women in the Mineral Resources Department.
These were the words of emotional Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources director mineral development and acting director lands, Raijeli Taga, during the International Women’s Day and Employment Relations Section 88 act amendment celebration at their office in Nabua, Suva, on Friday.
Ms Taga, married with three children, has been an employee of Mineral Resources Department for over 27 years. She is originally from Rukua in Beqa and resides in Suva with her family.
She is a University of the South Pacific graduate and started her career as a Chemist in the Chemical Lab at the Mineral Resources Department.
Ms Taga said the female staff members in the department have grown significantly.
“Before when I started, we were just a few of women working in the department and were fortunate to take monthly field trips to inspect the mines,” she said.
“Now, we have a significant number of females working in the department and since the bill has been passed, it is a milestone achievement for us women in the department to be legalised to work in the mines.
“It has created an opportunity for the young women to go into the mining engineering field as before it was mainly a male dominated industry. For us women at the department, it has legalised what we do.”
She said her first experience when she walked into a mine was an eye-opener.
“I grew up in Suva and I had never seen a mine before. Walking into the mine for the first time was an eye-opener for me,” she said.
“Before it was the expatriates working in the mine and a few female staff but for office work. Back then, women did not go down into the mine because the law did not allow the females to go and work underground into the mines.
“For me, my job was to go underground and check on the environmental and safety issues. It was an amazing experience for me.”
She encouraged more young women to take up the mining engineering because the law now supports and protects them.
“Now the door is open for all women to take up mineral resources programmes and take the opportunities provided to them by the Government.
“We are equal and women can do as much and as good work as the men in any field,” Ms Taga said.
Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Faiyaz Koya, attended the celebration, hosted by the men in the Mineral Resources department, to mark the milestone achievement of women in the department.
On Thursday in Parliament, the considerations of the Bill were raised by the Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and said the Employment Relations amendment bill for 2018 sought to remove Section 88 of the Act.
Section 88 of the Bill states that an employer is not prevented from prohibiting the employment of females in underground work in mines of all kinds except for the following:
- in management positions not requiring manual work
- in health and welfare
- in education or training; or
- For occasional non-manual work.
The Employment Relations (Amendment Bill) 2018 is expected to remove section 88 of the Act and it was outdated.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said in Parliament on Thursday that in today’s modern Fiji there was nothing that a man can do that a woman could not.
The Bill would allow Fiji to maximise its productive capacity as women will also participate actively in all forms of employment.
Mr Koya said it was a great achievement for the women in his ministry to celebrate the bill passed on International Women’s Day.
“It is a happy and historical day for us because we are marking the achievement of women with International Women’s Day and the amendment of Employment Relations Section 88 bill passed in Parliament on Thursday,” he said.
“There are a lot of successful women that have worked at the department for many years and they have given their best contributions to the workforce.
“My department has led the way in women empowerment and I am very proud to see that the women in the department are able to do the same job with equal participation in every field of work,” Mr Koya said.