Down By The River: Addressing the Rights, Needs and Strengths of Fijian Sexual and Gender Minorities in Disaster Risk Reduction and Humanitarian Response

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This research report is relevant for humanitarian practitioners, especially those working in DRR and shelter areas, because it focuses entirely on the experiences and concerns of Fijians with diverse SOGIESC and demonstrates the power of narrative methods; this is a crucial piece of research.

This community-mapping, story-sharing and traditional talanoa session was one of three held with sexual and gender minority Fijians in May 2017 as part of the Down By The River project.Researchers and participants gathered to hear stories of life, both before and after Tropical Cyclone Winston devastated parts of Fiji in February 2016. How discrimination in everyday life creates vulnerability before disasters; about the challenges they faced as sexual and gender minorities in surviving and recovering from TC Winston; and about the strength that they draw upon from each other.

This Down By The River report relays the priorities shared by Fijian sexual and gender minorities through their stories, and offers reflections from a workshop with Fijian DRR and humanitarian actors. Although Down By The River was a relatively short project, it provides guidance for substantive steps toward inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in DRR and humanitarian programs. And it challenges government, organisations and individuals to interrogate underlying assumptions about sex, sexuality and gender that exclude sexual and gender minorities, and that make specific inclusion measures necessary.

Violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, or sex characteristics is now recognised within global human rights bodies as violations of human rights. For rights-based and needs-based development and humanitarian actors there is now urgency to address the rights, needs, strengths and vulnerabilities of sexual and gender minorities in DRR and humanitarian frameworks, policies, and practice.

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The inclusion of sexual and gender minorities provides an opportunity for international organisations to practise localisation. In addition to building their own capacity to engage on sexual and gender minority issues, international organisations should adopt strategies that take guidance and leadership from those most impacted."

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This community-mapping, story-sharing and traditional talanoa session was one of three held with sexual and gender minority Fijians in May 2017 as part of the Down By The River project.Researchers and participants gathered to hear stories of life, both before and after Tropical Cyclone Winston devastated parts of Fiji in February 2016. How discrimination in everyday life creates vulnerability before disasters; about the challenges they faced as sexual and gender minorities in surviving and recovering from TC Winston; and about the strength that they draw upon from each other.

This Down By The River report relays the priorities shared by Fijian sexual and gender minorities through their stories, and offers reflections from a workshop with Fijian DRR and humanitarian actors. Although Down By The River was a relatively short project, it provides guidance for substantive steps toward inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in DRR and humanitarian programs. And it challenges government, organisations and individuals to interrogate underlying assumptions about sex, sexuality and gender that exclude sexual and gender minorities, and that make specific inclusion measures necessary.

Violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, or sex characteristics is now recognised within global human rights bodies as violations of human rights. For rights-based and needs-based development and humanitarian actors there is now urgency to address the rights, needs, strengths and vulnerabilities of sexual and gender minorities in DRR and humanitarian frameworks, policies, and practice.