Three civil society organizations (CSOs) in Fiji: Empower Pacific, Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation and Medical Services Pacific have been awarded grants to provide access to justice support services as part of the key objectives of the Fiji Access to Justice Project, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programmme (UNDP).
The EU funded Fiji Access to Justice Project supports access to justice for impoverished and vulnerable groups through empowering people to access legal rights and services, and strengthening key justice institutions to deliver improved services.
The Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation for the Pacific, Mr Christoph Wagner said “Enhancing the rule of law, access to justice and human rights is at the core of the EU’s commitment and support to people in Fiji and the Government. We recognize that CSOs play a critical role in this area. The EU is therefore pleased to provide support to help these CSOs in reaching out to the most marginalized population ensuring equal access to justice by everyone in Fiji.”
The grants aim to support and strengthen the three CSOs to provide access to justice, counselling and protection support services on child abuse, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and violence against women, and provide access to justice support services for persons with physical and psychosocial disabilities. This includes a priority foundational need to raise awareness and understanding of legal rights and the justice services available to the Fijian people and provide basic services on access to justice and human rights at the community level to reach those in more remote areas of Fiji.
Representatives of the three CSOs shared how the grants will contribute to their respective areas of expertise:
The Executive Director of Medical Services Pacific (MSP), Ms Jennifer Poole said, “The grant we are receiving from the Fiji Access to Justice Project will enable us to strengthen and continue our support for survivors of SGBV (women, youth and children), specifically providing clinical services, counselling services and legal aid. It will also support rapid response to SGBV and child abuse offences, where MSP works in partnership with our government stakeholders.”
“The funding will resource a number of mobile clinics in the Western, Central and Northern Divisions and support capacity building in sexual and reproductive health and rights for community leaders and partners,” she added.
Empower Pacific Chief Executive Officer, Mr Patrick Morgam said, ““We are strengthening our counselling, social work and psychosocial support referrals and services in the areas of SGBV, violence against women and child protection in coordination with our government and civil society partners. Our on-going awareness raising programme, Healthy Minds Happy Lives and Awesome Fathers will also be strengthened to raise awareness and prevent violence.”
Morgam has encouraged people to come forward for counselling. “It’s okay to reach out and ask for help when you have problems, never be too afraid, shy, embarrassed, unworthy, proud, or stubborn to ask for little assistance.”
The Fiji Disabled People’s Federation President, Mr Joshko Wakaniyasi said, “The grants for justice support services will enable us to reach out more people with disabilities and raise their awareness on their human rights, legal rights and justice services they could access. It will also strengthen our advocacy to inform the government policy and its implementation so that our rights are upheld in the provision of justice sector services. The initiative will help facilitate the pathway from simple recognition to realization of rights with persons with disabilities.”
Shahin Rafique Ali, Acting Director of the Legal Aid Commission said in his remarks, “We anticipate that this engagement will result in better and improved relations between key government and justice sector stakeholders with the civil society organizations at the community level in order to bring about greater access to justice and a better understanding of human rights issue.”
Salma Elhagyousif, Officer-in-Charge, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji said, “The Fiji Access to Justice Project, funded by the EU, aims to improve citizen’s access to legal rights and services, through enhancing the capacity of justice institutions to deliver justice services and CSOs to provide justice support services. The grants for justice support services are designed to strengthen CSOs to play their role in reaching the furthest left behind, providing them with services, and increasing citizen’s awareness of their rights.”
The grants for justice support services, which will also service to be delivered for up to two years, aim to increase knowledge on access to justice and human rights, identify and discuss key human rights challenges, and establish and promote a robust platform for engagement between government justice institutions, Legal Aid Commission, Human Rights and Anti-discrimination Commission, and CSOs.