Residents of Jittu Estate in the outskirts of Suva, home to over 3,000 Fijians took advantage of access to public information and services this week.

Members of the community were able to access the information and services such as health protection and screening, prevention and reporting of violence against women and children, economic and employment issues.

The Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project or REACH Project has been evolving and responding to needs, by integrating relevant services such as civil registrations, human rights, security and law enforcement, and banking as well as offering health and counselling services. The REACH mobile integrated public service delivery model was adapted across the ocean by neighboring countries, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu in 2019.

The initiative was established with the support from the Government of Japan and UNDP in 2015, which is now fully integrated and operated by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation with support from the Government of Australia and UNDP.

This week the REACH Team of multi-sectoral, government-civil society organizations, led by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation in partnership of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) delivered an integrated package of services to the community of Jittu Estate.

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa said, “With the global trends reporting a surge in gender based violence due to restrictive measures taken to combat COVID-19 abroad, as well as related economic pressures, the Ministry is leading efforts in partnership with relevant stakeholders to rapidly advance prevention and response to violence against women and girls and prevention of child abuse”.

Minister Vuniwaqa also encouraged the community members to break the silence of child abuse and violence against girls so we can end the vicious cycle of crimes against our children of Fiji. She also informed them about the Child Helpline number 1325 and Domestic Violence Helpline number 1560, toll free numbers that are manned by professional counselors, ready to listen to their problems and guide them towards getting the help they need and deserve.

The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation was joined by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (Environmental Health and the Tobacco Control and Enforcement), Suva City Council, the Fiji Police Force Sexual Offence Unit, the Fiji Competition and Consumer Commission, as well as Empower Pacific and Medical Services Pacific from civil society, who assisted the community to raise people’s awareness on social, economic and legal rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Fiji and provided related services. The REACH mobile office, consisted of a custom-designed bus and marquee set up with hand washing stations. It also adopted the special COVID-19 measures by practicing physical distancing and temperature screening of all citizens intending to acquire services.

The service was well received by both adults and children.

“I know that some violence happened in some families in the community. Many people have been so stressed because of losing jobs and income opportunities. I now feel safer having the team of government and CSOs that have brought community services and information that is important to us,” Ms. Mereani Lawakau said.

The Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency John Feakes said, “We are pleased to support community outreach initiatives taken by the Fijian Government such as the ‘REACH’ project particularly in this critical time.”

UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative Levan Bouadze said, “The threats of COVID-19 has urged us all to invest in crucial public services as the UN Secretary-General reminded us. I believe the multi-sectoral effort to strengthen public service delivery will assist people in Fiji to strengthen their resilience. I appreciate the support generously given by multiple donors including the Government of Australia in this critical moment.”

For information on the REACH program for 2020 you may contact the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation on 3315585 or 3312199.

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