Apia, Samoa – The legal advice Faiilagi Sofe received for her business was more than just a time-saving solution, it was also moral support for her as a young entrepreneur to pursue her business plan with confidence.
Faiilagi, a 31-year-old from Samalaeulu village, has been managing a shop with her father, and was preparing to start up her own business when she faced a problem. She bought a truck to transport bricks for construction but did not receive the proper ownership documents.
“I asked about the transfer of the ownership of the truck I recently bought when a team of officers from the government and non-governmental organizations came to our village. Since then the Police have been helping me to solve this issue. Now I know what steps to take thanks to their advice, which I would not have obtained otherwise,” said Faiilagi.
Faiilagi’s story is one of many from people who received information and services from government agencies and non-government organizations, delivered directly on site in their communities through the new Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) project.
For people living in remote communities in Samoa, like Faiilagi’s case, their access to services to deal with legal and social issues arising in their daily lives, would have been delayed, or proven impossible to access.
At REACH sessions, women, men and youth eagerly sought information, became more aware of their entitlements, and accessed services related to human rights, women’s services, legal rights and court services, civil registrations and other services provided on-site by government and NGO staff in communities through REACH.
Officers from the government and NGOs across many sectors came together as a team and visited communities, starting in March 2019, to deliver their services to the doorsteps of people living outside of urban centres in Samoa. This REACH pilot initiative is a mobile awareness raising and service delivery model that Samoa is adapting following its success in Fiji.
The initiative in Samoa is led by the Government of Samoa with support from UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is also being piloted in Tonga.
Ms Shamila Leavai from the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration who was part of the REACH multi-sectoral team said the response from the communities was overwhelming.
“The majority of the people we spoke to had little or no knowledge at all of their legal and constitutional rights. The people lacked understanding of the laws of the country and didn’t know what constitutes an offence. They were unaware of the government justice related services available to them.”
“With the information and services we provided, people were grateful and very appreciative of the REACH initiative; a new government platform using the sector wide approach and taking the services to the communities. I am glad that people gained a great deal of knowledge and understanding on their rights and the services, and used the opportunity to make themselves heard,” said Ms Leavai.