The Fiji National University (FNU) was commended by UN Women Fiji’s Sandra Bernklau for respecting, recognising and taking action by initiating the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) and human rights staff training.

Bernklau, the Country Representative of UN Women Fiji’s Multi-Country Office, delivered the keynote address as Chief Guest during the launch at Nasinu Campus and highlighted that addressing discrimination required individuals and organisations to take action.

“It goes without saying that the basis of all human relationships is respect and dignity for all,” she said.

“And that where we can create a society which focuses on our strengths and abilities – and does not divide us by our diverse and differences – that is a hallmark of a strong society and community.”

“It is with institutions as well, if you have a workplace that values everyone’s unique characteristics, identities, skills and strengths, you build a strong team.”

Bernklau said the staff training was a start to understanding how discrimination impacted both individuals and groups of people and what could be done to address the issue.

“We may all think we’re cool and that we don’t discriminate but we need to understand that discrimination is structural and is not only built into our internal consciousness and bias’, but in our systems and structures as well.”

“Looking at the world through a lens of respect of and understanding diversity will lead to better outcomes for everyone.”

Bernklau said she was pleased to note that the training was launched during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign.

“The movement calls for improved laws, policies and services, as well as changes in attitudes needed to address violence,” she said.

“It is great to see governments, UN agencies and campuses such as yourselves participating. It is fitting that this training is happening during the 16 Days campaign period.

”She conveyed the support of UN Women and other UN agencies towards the University in its endeavour to ensure everyone who works or study at FNU was treated with equal respect and dignity.

FNU Acting Chancellor, Tessa Price, added that the training was in line with the University’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy that applies to all students, employees and visitors to the University.

“The University respects the right of its employees to hold, vigorously defend, and express their ideas and opinions in an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding, and sensitivity. However, the right to free expression does not excuse any employee from engaging in discrimination or discriminatory harassment,” Price said.

“As part of our Duty to Accommodate, FNU is obliged to take reasonable steps to eliminate disadvantages that may have an adverse impact on individuals or groups of people and today’s training launch highlights our commitment to this.”

“The training would not be possible without our facilitators from the DIVA for Equality organisation and I would also like to challenge our staff to prepare themselves to be open, inspired and informed after their sessions.”

Acting Vice-Chancellor, Dr William May, acknowledged the FNU Council for seeing the need for training to ensure the University remained progressive in its learning, teaching and training delivery.

FNU staff in the Central Division will undergo training in one of eight sessions scheduled throughout this week. Further training will be undertaken in the coming months for all FNU staff in the West and Northern campuses.

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