Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT)

Workshop delegates discuss options for "Changing Laws: Protecting Women" at teh Nadi Workshop held in April 2009

Workshop delegates discuss options for "Changing Laws: Protecting Women" at teh Nadi Workshop held in April 2009

Changing Laws: Protecting Women

A new and powerful agent for change has launched in the region to provide the impetus for the development of legislation to protect families. It also pushes for a change in attitudes in the community, and in Governments, to reduce the harm from violence within families.

The Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) has been active in the region for many years with programmes to train in-country representatives as “para legals” to provide front line legal advice; training programmes for lawyers and the Judiciary; as an expert resource on legalisation on families, violence and human rights; and to be an advocate for change.  The RRRT is a key member of the Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) to the PPDVP.

Like many organisations across the pacific, the RRRT has struggled to secure funds for regional programmes, as the demand for these funds across the world is immense.  When the problems of the Pacific are matched against those in the rest of the world, the competition becomes all the more intense.

The RRRT has long seen the need for comprehensive and consistent legislation in the Pacific around Family Law including domestic violence and the protection of the vulnerable, when families are under stress and violence.

In 2008 they made a submission to the United Nations Trust Fund in Support of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women.  Sandra Bernklau, who is the RRRT Programme Manager based in Suva, led the application process.  While the proposal always seemed essential for the Pacific, it was not an easy process to meet the international criteria for it to be a success.

Sandra described the problems in understanding the great distances between countries and the high costs of air travel in the Pacific when committee members based in Europe are accustomed to jumping on a train and travelling between countries and home again, just for a one-day meeting.

Simply describing the programme is a task in itself.  “Changing Laws: Protecting Women, lobbying for legislation change in violence against women / family law in order to enhance protection for women and girls in six pacific island countries” is something of mouthful.  Sandra refers to it as the “Changing Laws: Protecting Women” programme but in order to meet the criteria the rather comprehensive title emerged. 

Late last year they received the green light for a three-year programme.

RRRT hosted a “regional consultation” in Nadi in early May where an assessment of the current legislation was made.  Each country described their own situation and a gap analysis revealed the principal areas where work is needed. 

The process in the development of legislation in Vanuatu, and the drafting of legislation in Fiji, were key lessons for the workshop.  The “consultation” led to agreement on the specific work areas in each country.  The programme will provide in-country support with either full time or part time coordinators depending on the level of activity in the country.

National committees to guide and support the developments, and to effect change at a government and policy level, as well as a social and community level, were agreed.  Wherever possible these committees will join or build on the structures already initiated by the PPDVP.

Advertisements for the in-country positions have been placed and the country work programmes will start mid this year. 

The “consultation workshop” emphasised the importance of changes that are locally supported, locally led, and sustained by expert advice and experience.

The programme will use existing legislation and processes as start points wherever it can as it strives to introduce comprehensive Family Law to the best international standards in each country.

From the PPDVP perspective, the programme is a natural ally.  The main countries for delivery of this programme are matched against the PPDVP “Participating Countries”. The secondary stream is matched to the “Linked Countries” for the PPDVP. The overall objectives of the RRRT Programme are aligned to two of the key objectives of the PPDVP in developing domestic violence legislation and policy in each country.

Further information can be obtained from Gina Houng Lee at RRRT (679) 330 5582 and the RRRT web site at www.rrrt.org.

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