Seventy three officers from the Legal Aid Commission and the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation have brushed up their skills of rights awareness raising, to facilitate improved service delivery to people in Fiji.
The Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project, aims to promote peacebuilding, 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 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Legal Aid Commission and supported by the Government of Japan.
Christine Fowler, REACH Project Manager reported that between September to December 2015, mobile teams comprising of officers from the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Legal Aid Commission conducted 17 days of awareness and service delivery to 48 villages and settlements in 10 of the 37 Districts in all three Provinces of Bua, Cakaudrove and Macuata in the Northern Division, reaching 1,127 people including 464 women, 507 men and 156 children.
“These mobile teams also delivered 729 services such as advice on eligibility for poverty alleviation schemes, information on women and child rights, and legal advisory services,” she said. “For the majority of the missions, representatives from the Commissioner Northern Office and Provincial Councils also accompanied the mobile team and responded to many enquiries raised by community members.”
“Awareness and service delivery were conducted across all three provinces in the Northern Division, to remote and difficult to access areas, including outreach to maritime areas, with the end result being that these communities are now empowered with information and knowledge of their rights and also provided with services by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Legal Aid Commission right at their doorstep to access such rights,” Ms Fowler added.
The REACH project started the New Year with a workshop to get the officers ready to go to the communities, raise awareness and provide information and services. REACH Project will now commence throughout Fiji, commencing the mobile services in Central and Western Divisions, as well as visiting the Eastern Division, while continuing the awareness raising and service delivery in the Northern Division.
Sunil Sharma, the Director Legal Aid Commission said, “the Legal Aid Commission is fully committed to going out and reaching all communities, in order to help people to understand their rights and also to access government services.” He added “it is important to ensure that all Fijians have access to information on their rights, have the information on the services that can be provided by the Government and have access to those services, wherever they live in Fiji. Importantly we must have an inclusive approach to reach out to all Fijians and not leave anyone behind.”
The mobile team this year will be assisted with mobile units specially equipped and designed for efficient delivery of services and effective awareness raising. The information gained and lessons learned from the mobile team services conducted in 2015, will inform the type and style of these mobile units (such as buses) and the processes to develop these vehicles have now commenced.
With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals launched on 1 January 2016 with 17 goals which addresses the needs of people in both developed and developing countries, emphasising that no one should be left behind, the REACH project will contribute particularly to achieving the Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
Osnat Lubrani, UNDP Resident Representative said, “UNDP is marking its 50th anniversary in 2016, leading the UN development system in over 170 countries and territories and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. With over five decades of experience in development work, I am most pleased that UNDP though the REACH project, remains ready to continue to support and work in partnership with the Government of Fiji in its ongoing efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda particularly in those areas.”
H.E. Mr. Takuji Hanatani, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan said, “Japan’s assistance for the REACH project aims to effectively improve people’s access to social services, especially for the women of Fiji in rural areas and informal settlements. This is in line with two of the main concepts for Japanese ODA, namely ‘Strengthening Human Security’ and ‘Encouraging Gender Equality’. I am pleased to acknowledge good progress made by the REACH project since it started in June 2015, also strengthening the partnership between Japan, the Government of Fiji and UNDP”.
Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Rosy Sofia Akbar said the Project will create new platforms for socioeconomic empowerment of rural communities.
“REACH is a unique way to raise awareness on Ministry's services, on social welfare programs, women empowerment and child protection. It includes information sharing on how to report cases of domestic violence, child welfare cases, positive parenting, male advocacy, gender equality, women’s reproductive health services and counselling services. We will capitalize on the REACH Project to create well-informed, united and resilient communities in Fiji,” Minister Akbar elaborated.
The REACH Project commenced in June 2015, with the initial focus to enhance delivery of services through the provision of ‘mobile teams’ visiting urban informal and rural communities in the Northern Division.
The Legal Rights Awareness Raising workshop was organized by REACH Project from 11 - 14 January.
Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Communications and Advocacy Officer, UNDP. Phone: 331 2500 Mobile: 9422193 Email: email@example.com