Suva, Fiji - Remote villages in the Naitasiri province, for the longest time, found it difficult to access social, economic and legal services. The people of Matailou and Wanimala District would travel for hours on foot or horseback to the nearby bus stand to get to the city where these services are accessed.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, the Legal Aid Commission, and the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission is changing that for the people in 16 remote villages in the two districts through the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project.
UNDP Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Human Rights Programme Manager, Christine Fowler said, “This project has put together a mobile service team that includes the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, the Legal Aid Commission and the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission representatives.
She added, “They go to these villages and provide their services to the communities rather than having them come to the main city which they find very difficult to do.”
People from these remote areas have had to travel for two hours on foot or horseback along the Wainimala River before getting on the public bus for another three hours to get to the main city area.
- The mobile service team met people from 16 villages in 2 districts (Matailobau and Wainimala), Naitasiri Province and the Central Division. Total number of participants: 250 (133 women and 117 men)
- The mobile service team delivered 217 services (127 women and 90 men). The Department of Social Welfare delivered 105 (35 to women and 70 to men); the Department of Women delivered 73 (all to women); and the Legal Aid Commission delivered 39 (19 women and 20 men).
Social Welfare Officer for the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Laisani Bainivalu said, "Many applications for social services submitted from people in remote villages show the necessity of us officers to reach out to those who are disadvantaged in terms of accessing services".
"REACH mobile service delivery approach enables both the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Legal Aid Commission to come together and deliver our much needed services to the remote communities at their doorsteps,” she added.
Karalaini Lewaiwau, from Matawaulevu village, met the team during one of their recent visits said, “My son was injured badly last year. He is recovering but I still need to take him to a hospital in Suva regularly which takes long walk and bus ride and costs me so much. Now I’ve learned that I could apply for a financial support scheme. That will help us”.
Adi Ema Delaiwau from Lasalevu village looks after her two grandchildren with her retired husband. Delaiwau has been receiving her Poverty Benefit Scheme but finds it difficult to feed all her family and send her two children to school.
“I asked the officer if the amount of the support could increase. She was helpful assisting me to obtain the required documents to verify my situation,” said Delaiwau.
From the recent mobile services provided, thirty new applications for economic and social benefits including the Poverty Benefit Scheme, Social Pension Scheme, Bus Fare Assistance, Care and Protection Allowance and Rural Pregnant Mothers Food Vouchers were successfully submitted to the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.
The REACH Project aims to promote peace building, social cohesion and inclusiveness through awareness of rights, access to services, provision of legal advice and institutional capacity building in Fiji.
The three-year project is being implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Legal Aid Commission and supported by the Government of Japan.
Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Communications and Advocacy Specialist, UN Volunteer email@example.com, tel: +679 331 2500