Pranesh Lata at her home in Rakiraki, Fiji (Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki)

Rakiraki, Fiji
 – Pranesh Lata was not aware of the social welfare services the Government provides to people in Fiji nor thought she would need it until her husband fell ill. Her husband was a carpenter and built the house where they and their two daughters are living comfortably in the Western part of Fiji. Sadly, one day her husband suffered a stroke while out at sea fishing for the family’s livelihood. Shocked by what happened, Pranesh and her daughters immediately faced new challenges they have never experienced before.  

“We were struggling hard to deal with the situation. I did not know about government services which could be available to us. A local school teacher one day told me about the team who was coming to our community with some information and services,” said Pranesh as she recalled the events.

Fortunately, she was one of 37 people (15 women and 22 men) who attended the mobile awareness raising and service delivery session brought to her community at Nanuku settlement in Rakiraki District by government officers and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji.  During the session, she learned her rights and the services she is entitled to, to support her family in the difficult situation.

People living in remote maritime or interior communities often face challenges in accessing the social, economic and legal services the government provides. People residing in close proximity to urban center where government offices are located are not always aware of the rights and services they could access. 

Teams of government officers are going to communities to conduct awareness raising of the social, economic and legal rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji and provide immediate access to the services associated with these rights. The teams include officers from the Ministry of Children, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Legal Aid Commission, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and other related government agencies coordinated by the UNDP.

A mobile service delivery approach is undertaken using three buses custom designed and equipped as mobile offices to reach communities throughout all of Fiji with the focus to reach the furthest behind first.  

A total of 8905 people (i.e. 4237 women, 3959 men and 709 children) from 526 communities in 85 districts across Central, Eastern, Northern and Western Divisions have benefitted from the mobile awareness raising and service delivery since it commenced in September 2015 until September 2017.

Pranesh Lata with her husband at their home in Rakiraki, Fiji (Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki)

Pranesh is regaining her strength to face the challenges, and has recently received good news – one of the social welfare services she applied for has been approved. 

“The allowance will be a great relief for us since we have to manage the medical expenses for my husband and schooling for my daughters to continue their education,” she said. 

She is hopeful that one day soon her husband will recover and be well enough to work again.

This is an initiative of the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project that 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 REACH Project is being implemented by the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, and the Legal Aid Commission and supported by the Government of Japan and UNDP. 

The initiative supports Fiji’s commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goals, particularly to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (Goal 16); and to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls (Goal 5).

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