Kadavu, Fiji – Men and women from across 18 villages in the four districts of Kadavu Province, for the first time learned about the legal aid services available to them from the Fiji Legal Aid Commission Officers who recently visited their communities.
The Legal Aid Commission Officers were part of a mobile initiative for awareness raising and service delivery provided by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, the Legal Aid Commission, Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (FHRADC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The initiative is part of the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion for Rural and Urban Fijians Project, also called the REACH Project implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, the Legal Aid Commission and local governments supported by the Government of Japan.
The REACH project aims to increase people’s awareness about their constitutional rights and deliver social, economic and legal services provided by the Ministry and the Legal Aid Commission at their doorsteps.
The mobile team carried out the programme over a period of five days in the villages and primary schools of Nakasaleka, Ravitaki, Tavuki and Yawe Districts in Kadavu Province. The services were also provided under the tent at the provincial wide sports event, ‘Yaubula Sevens Festival’ held in Vunisea, the center of the province in which more than 33 villages from all over the province participated.
Bulou Varanisese from Nakaunakoro village came to the neighboring Nakoronawa village in Nakasaleka District which hosted the REACH mobile team and had a chance to talk to the officers.
“I heard about legal aid services for the first time and learned that the services are available for us for free. I was able to learn how to process adoption formally. We are grateful that the group of officers came to this remote community all the way.”
“We would welcome more awareness programmes to be conducted at our community,” she added.
Like Ms Varanisese, people who participated in the awareness and service delivery sessions conducted by the REACH mobile team brought to the officers various issues concerning them, ranging from adoption, divorce, maintenance, deed poll (a legal document that proves a change of name), child custody, probate (the official proving of a will), transfer of assets, power of attorney, debt issue, land lease issue to matter of the registration of native landowners or Vola ni Kawa Bula (VKB).
Thirty nine particular individuals were provided with advice or referrals by the officers from the Legal Aid Commission during their visit.
Legal Aid Commission Senior Legal Officer, Keli Vulimainadave said, “People have been encountering various issues, many of which can be solved with the legal assistance we provide. People should be able to access the social, economic and legal services they are entitled to and exercise their rights guaranteed in our Constitution”.
“Everyone, particularly those who has no means to do so, should be able to access legal aid services. This unique mobile approach enables people to access our services right in their communities even in remote areas,” she added.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals launched on 1 January 2016 with 17 goals, addresses the needs of people in both developed and developing countries - emphasizing that ‘No one should be left behind’. The REACH project will contribute particularly to achieving Goal Five, which is achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls and Goal 16 that promotes just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Communications and Advocacy Specialist, UN Volunteer email@example.com, tel: +679 331 2500