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“We are born free and equal, free to walk, free to talk, free to dance, free to jump and free to prance… Know your human rights ’cause it could help you someday” was beat out to music by some of the 230 participants in Labasa during their first ever rapping event.
To mark Human Rights Day 2017, advocacy activities have been undertaken in Labasa, Levuka, Savusavu, Suva and Lautoka. These activities were implemented by the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC), the Legal Aid Commission (LAC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji and the Community Advocates for Human Rights and Access to Justice whose capacity is being developed under the Fiji Access to Justice Project. The activities were funded under the Fiji Access to Justice Project which is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji.
This advocacy for improving the human rights and access to justice of Fijians builds on six consultations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs), led by the HRADC, and supported by the EU-funded Fiji Access to Justice Project, conducted between February and August 2017. These consultations helped raise the awareness among Fijian citizens about their rights and were undertaken in locations across Fiji. They involved 290 participants with 71% of those consulted from outside of Suva. These consultations also demonstrated a strong desire among NGOs, CSOs and HRADC to network, collaborate and work together in the field.
This has now been effectively achieved. First, through the Community Advocates for Human Rights and Access to Justice Workshop which was undertaken in November 2017 with 49 participants where knowledge and skills were enhanced. Of the participants in the Workshop 55% were from outside of Suva and the participants represented over 25 different organisations. Second, through working in partnership with these Community Advocates for Human Rights and Access to Justice put into practice their advocacy skills over this past week across Fiji.
Mosese Walesi is one of those Community Advocates who helped facilitate Human Rights Day celebrations in Levuka. Mosese said, “My work as a Community Advocate has been an essential part of raising awareness at community-level, especially for the most vulnerable in my community. Building a strong rapport with communities, with the full support of the Fiji Access to Justice Project and its partner organizations, has left a lasting impression for the people of Ovalau on the occasion of Human Rights Day 2017.”
One of the 55 participants at the Levuka event, Mesake Raiviu of the remote Bamba settlement said, “Today I came to learn of my rights for access to justice and of the recently opened Legal Aid Commission Office in Levuka. This new knowledge of the services available to me has inspired me to ask them about the legal procedures to formally adopt my daughter.”
Imparting some of the new learnings directly with his community, he added, “Immediately after the event, I convened a village meeting, where I shared some of my new knowledge with my other villagers. Going forward, I am now able to more actively pursue the adoption of my daughter with the LAC.”
One of the 77 participants at the Suva event, which included 32 participants with disabilities, Verenki Mataka said, “This is the first time for me to learn about my rights and I am thankful for these kinds of awareness programmes. It is encouraging that I am also included”.
Bonita Clemancew is one of the Community Advocates who helped facilitate Human Rights Day celebrations in Lautoka. Bonita said, “The value of the recent Community Advocates Workshop became even more apparent this week as I put the knowledge and skills gained at the workshop into practice. I am also delighted to work in collaboration with HRADC as it allows the community to access justice, which is a basic need and a fundamental principle of human rights and has proved a huge asset in delivering the key messages of human rights to remote community members and particularly the youth.’
The Director of HRADC, Ashwin Raj commented, “The engagement with diverse groups –covering youth, women, children, village leaders, persons living with disability, LGBTI members and civil society organizations – is a progressive step towards building a robust human rights culture in Fiji. It is encouraging to see the Community Advocates for Human Rights and Access to Justice taking a forefront role in organizing Human Rights Day celebrations.”
The Director of HRADC added, “This collaboration with the Community Advocates for Human Rights and Access to Justice will go beyond Human Rights Day, as we will continue to engage with the communities and civil society organizations to promote human rights, in particular, among the vulnerable citizens across the country.”
The European Union Ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific H.E. Julian Wilson said the European Union is proud to be working together with the HRADC and the UNDP to facilitate and nurture this growing culture of human rights in Fiji. ''The European Union and its 28 Member States have made the protection of human rights a cornerstone of our Union – they are protected under law and defended by civil society and all our institutions. We see these rights as universal, being the right of every person on this planet. So, we naturally reach out to allies such as Fiji who share the same approach as ourselves and who have committed to ensure respect for human rights a cornerstone for their own societies.'' ''Today, the European Union and its Member States join Fiji and the United Nations in calling upon states and people to Stand up for Human Rights on the occasion of Human Rights Day 2017.''
Officer in Charge, for the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Kevin Petrini commented, “The Human Rights Day 2017 advocacy activities held under the Fiji Access to Justice Project exemplify the collaboration and robust partnerships for awareness raising between independent institutions such as the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and the Legal Aid Commission, and civil society, together with the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. With advocacy being conducted at the grassroots level in locations across all Divisions of Fiji, strong efforts are being made to reach vulnerable groups towards bolstering their access to justice and human rights awareness and the provision of associated services.”
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December, an event to commemorate the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year the Human Rights Day marks the launch of a year-long campaign to celebrate the 70th anniversary in 2018.
The Fiji Access to Justice Project supports access to justice for impoverished and vulnerable groups through empowering people to access legal rights and services through the relevant key justice institutions, in conjunction with strengthening the key justice institutions to undertake improved service delivery.
For further information, please contact:
Mithleshni Gurdayal, Communications Officer, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission. Tel: +679 330 8577, +679 914 2539 Email: email@example.com
Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Advocacy and Communications, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. Tel: +679 942 2193, Email: Tomoko.Kashiwazaki@undp.org