Ha'apai and Vavaʻu, Tonga – The islands of Ha’apai and Vava’u have welcomed the successful Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) pilot outreach programme delivering justice, and government services to remote communities in Tonga.
The roll out of the REACH pilot in Vava’u and Ha’apai, from 23 September to 4 October, was led by the Government of Tonga’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, with support from UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through contributions from the Government of Denmark. The REACH mobile service delivery model began in Fiji in 2015, and this year is expanding to Tonga and Samoa.
Social support services for women, men and families provided by the government and civil society organizations (CSOs) have become more accessible for residents of Ha'apai and Vavaʻu living in many remote communities, through the introduction of the new REACH (or in Tonga, A’u Tonu Ki Ai) pilot for mobile service delivery.
The REACH team travelled through Ha'apai and Vavaʻu, following the successful pilot rollout earlier this year reaching 16 communities across Tongatapu and ‘Eua Islands, providing 2,715 government services over 10 days.
There were a total of 32 villages which benefitted from awareness and mobile services in the Vava’u and Ha’apai mission; 18 in Vava’u and 14 in Ha’apai, while information sessions benefitted 2,252 people (1,347 women, 836 men and 69 children (including youths).
The former Minister for Internal Affairs, Hon. Saia Piukala stated that, “…through the REACH initiative, government aims to enhance more inclusive delivery of service provision. Using the mobile service delivery platform, we also aim to increase the awareness of people on government’s support services for vulnerable groups, and strengthen gender equality in our society.”
In commissioning the roll out of the pilot mission in Vava’u, the Hon. Governor of Vava’u, Lord Fakatulolo highlighted that, “REACH is the physical manifestation of the government’s efforts to allow all people of Tonga access to justice and government services, ensuring that no one is left behind”. The Hon. Governor of Ha’apai Rev. Dr. Tevita Mohenoa Puloka further reiterated the same sentiments in the commissioning of the REACH project in Ha’apai.
The District Officer of the ‘Uiha district, Mr. Saia Siale Niumeitolu stated that, “…of all the government outreaches that have visited our islands, this is by far the most effective and people-centred… the people of our district are very happy and look forward with much anticipation to the next REACH A’u Tonu Ki AI” mission”.
The services to the Ha'apai and Vavaʻu mission included registration, licensing and information for development of small businesses and cooperatives by the Ministries of Trade and Economic Development; the issue of National Identification Cards by the Palace Office; registration of women’s groups, applications for community grants and family protection trust fund by the Ministry for Internal Affairs; Tonga National Centre for Women and Children (non-government organization) providing awareness and registration of DV cases; health screening by the Ministry of Health; certification of documents and other legal aid services including free legal advice and counseling for domestic violence survivors by the Ministry of Justice. People also benefitted from information sharing from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Lands and Infrastructure, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Police.
The UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative, Levan Bouadze said, “We are delighted to see the REACH mobile service delivery expanded from a successful Fiji initiative to a new start-up in Tonga. Together with UN Women, UNDP is committed to support the awareness of Tongans of the various services available to them, and strengthen their access to justice and public services, with a focus on upholding gender equality and inclusive, rights-based approach.”
UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office Representative Sandra Bernklau said, “UN Women is pleased to partner with UNDP to continue trialling this initiative in Tonga, and we hope it continues to expand and receive positive feedback and reviews from people living in remote communities who, through REACH, can better access services. In particular, we’re keen to support ways for Tonga’s REACH pilot initiative to further strengthen access to information and services to meet the unique needs of women and families, and by doing so ensure that women, men and children living in remote communities can better access essential services.”
The REACH mobile service delivery pilot initiative, funded and implemented by UN Women and UNDP, aims to enhance citizen access to justice and government services for rural, maritime and otherwise remote citizens in Tonga through integration of services and remote delivery by service providers with the focus on reaching the furthest behind first.
Through the REACH pilot initiative, UN Women and UNDP support the government of Tonga to achieve the Tonga Strategic Development Plan 2015-25 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a focus on Goal 5, which is a commitment to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls; and Goal 16, which is a commitment to promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
For general media queries about REACH, please contact:
Tomoko Kashiwazaki, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Suva, Fiji; tel: +679 331 250; email: email@example.com
Jacqui Berrell, UN Women Fiji Multi Country Office, Suva, Fiji; tel: +679 330 1178 ext. 125; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tupou’ahau Fakakovikaetau, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Tonga; email: email@example.com or Aina Kavaliku, email: firstname.lastname@example.org