Taveuni, Fiji - A number of villages on Taveuni Island are located so far from the island’s town that accessing public services can be such a strain. Their capacity is already stretched as they recover from the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston that hit Fiji almost a year ago, while other settlements located further from shore are enduring dry weather.
People in Lavena village and Waimaqela settlement of Taveuni travel to town by bus to apply for economic, social and legal services provided by the Government, the trip takes an entire day in order to catch the return bus home. Bus fare would cost a lot for them and more if they have to go a few times until they complete their applications.
Initiated through the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion for Rural and Urban Fijians Project, also called the REACH Project, a Mobile Service Delivery approach was designed to assist people in need of public services but find it difficult to access them in towns.
Under the REACH project, small groups of officers from the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, the Legal Aid Commission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) go out to visit communities, raise awareness on constitutional rights and deliver the social, economic and legal services people need.
A school master from Waimaqela settlement, Krishna Reddy, welcomed the REACH Mobile Service Delivery team at his community.
“It is very important for us to be able to access the awareness raising activities and services close to our community,” Reddy said.
Former Turaga ni Koro of Lavena village, Pelasio Manasewa, appreciated the assistance provided by the Mobile Service at his village. He was able to obtain a copy his birth certificate, which he lost when Tropical Cyclone Winston hit his home; he used the opportunity to also apply for Bus Fare Assistance.
“I am glad that my photos were taken by the Social Welfare Officer during his team visit today which saved me from going to town a few times to apply for the service,” said Mr Manasea.
The Mobile Service Delivery to Taveuni this time carried a special theme - ‘Stand Up For Someone’s Rights Today’ - to commemorate the International Human Rights Day held on December 10th.
Child Protection Project Officer at the Department of Social Welfare for the Northern Division, Vetaia Vuinakelo said, “Accessing the services is people’s right in our Constitution and if people have difficulty to do so, we the government officers should be able to come to them. The REACH Mobile Service Delivery approach is most appropriate in Fiji.”
“I talked to the participants on the importance of paying attention to their children particularly in the festive season of the year. I also talked to the children about the Child Helpline #1325 through which anyone, including children, can seek advice,” he added.
The REACH initiative is expected to further strengthen its Mobile Service Delivery through the commissioning of buses specially designed in Fiji for this purpose. One of the three buses was launched in Suva last month by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.
“This is the first of the three buses or more like mobile offices for the effective execution of the REACH project,” said Hon. Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa.
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 and UNDP.
Ambassador of Japan, H.E. Mr. Takuji Hanatani, said, “The inclusion of this bus in REACH Project operations, followed by the other two in early 2017, will strengthen the outreach capability of the project and help mobilize resources and officials to the frontlines of the fight against violence on women and children as well as for women’s empowerment in general”.
The 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.
UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director, Bakhodir Burkhanov said, “The REACH Project is designed to do precisely that – to support the Government of Fiji to reach out to all Fijians to deliver on social, economic and legal rights as enshrined in the Constitution.”
“Indeed, the Government has prioritized the provision of these services to all, which reinforces Fiji’s commitment to and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind,” he added.
The REACH Project is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals particularly through achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls – Goal 5, and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels – Goal 16.