Celebrating Human Rights Day on 10th December with youths in Kadavu. (Photo: UNDP)

Kadavu, Fiji
– Youth are increasingly speaking out on how to combat violence against women and girls and realize gender equality and human rights in Fiji. Over 30 youth members of communities in the Kadavu Islands, Eastern Division of Fiji assembled to celebrate Human Rights Day, which is held at the culmination of the 16 Days of Activism campaign to end violence against women.  

The celebration was part of the two-day session for youth as community advocates for human rights, jointly coordinated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Pacific Region (OHCHR) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji. 

The human rights session for youth aimed to strengthen understanding among youth on principles and practice of human rights with focus on gender equality and amplify the voice of youth for positive social change.  

According to the United Nations (UN), 64.1 percent of women aged 15 and older in Fiji have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. This is the second highest in the world. 

Ateca Bolakoro, one of participants from Namuana village, said, “Young people are no longer waiting for adult members of society to do something, but taking action to bring about change. We want Fiji to be a zero gender-based violence country.”   

Multiple government institutions and representatives of civil society organizations, including the Fiji Police Force, Department of Women, Ministry of Youth, Legal Aid Commission and Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC), as well as Aspire Network and Empower Pacific, joined forces to empower youth with crucial knowledge and information which will enable them to claim their rights and stand up for the rights of others.  

One of the youth leaders from Vunisea village, Ratu Josaia Nanovo who participated at the human rights session, said, “I learned the right to education is very important for us youth, both as a right and responsibility. We should study hard so that we can achieve our goals and support our parents and our society”. 

The Assistant Roko Tui for Kadavu, Jonacani Vatanitawake gave an encouraging message to the youth participants, “We empower youth in our communities because young people will represent our families, communities and Fiji as a whole”.

This year’s Human Rights Day focuses on Youth Standing Up for Human Rights. It aims to celebrate the potential of youth as constructive agents of change, amplify their voices, and engage a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights.

The Officer-in-Charge at the OHCHR Regional Office for the Pacific, Thomas Hunecke said, “The 2019 campaign theme – Youth Standing up for Human Rights  – led by OHCHR, is designed to encourage and showcase how youth all over the world stand up for rights and against racism, hate speech, bullying, discrimination, and climate change, to name a few. In Fiji we continue focusing on the fight against domestic violence and gender-based violence and we believe youth can play a crucial role in bringing about positive change”. 

Human rights are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The attainment of human rights is driven by progress on all SDGs, and the SDGs are driven by advancements on human rights. Under Goal 5 – Gender Equality, there is a commitment to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls. 

The Resident Representative for UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Levan Bouadze said, “Youth participation is essential to achieve sustainable development for all. We empower youth through involving them as community human rights advocates to raise awareness at the community level. This initiative has been effectively implemented as part of the Fiji Access to Justice Project, which we coordinate in partnership with the Judicial Department and the Legal Aid Commission, and is generously supported by the European Union.” 

Learning from professionals and fellow youth members, participants will draw up a youth community action plan at the end of the two-day session, which they will implement in each community over next year.

For more information, please contact:

Setita V Karikaritu, Assistant to the Regional Representative, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Regional Office for the Pacific; tel. +679 3310465 / 3310475 ext 214 or +679 2046415; email: setita.karikaritu@one.un.org;

Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Communications and advocacy, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; tel. +679 942 2193; email: tomoko.kashiwazaki@undp.org;

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