The Ministry of Women and the Fiji Police Force will soon establish a coordinated committee to address issues like street begging, elimination of violence, child labour and exploitation.
At a meeting held this week between the Minister for Women Hon. Rosy Akbar and Commissioner of Police, Mr Ben Groenewald it was agreed that two agencies would review a Memorandum of Agreement that was signed in 2012.
The new coordinated committee will see representatives from various government ministries and non-government organisations consolidate resources and information to address social issues in Fiji. The municipal councils and administrators will be part of the coordinated committee.
Minister Akbar said that the Ministry and Police will also take a collaborative and humanitarian approach to tackle issues like street begging.
“The Minor Offences Act 10 of 1971 states that begging is illegal, however, the coordinated committee will take a humanitarian approach to assist those people have been earning a living through begging.
Through the profiling exercise, we have seen that currently there are 72 people begging on the streets, most of who are mentally challenged. Eighty percent of these beggars are already on social welfare assistance.
“The Ministry will intensify efforts with the Ministry of Health to look at best ways of accommodating the mentally challenged. At the moment we don’t have any specific care home for the mentally challenged and that is a plan for us to work towards.
“To the able bodied, the Ministry is providing them with sustainable livelihood projects, like the three women in Suva who have been put into market vendor project. The Ministry has taken a social approach and as per my discussions with the Commissioner of Police, we will continue to expand this initiative in other towns and cities. Police will continue to monitor the streets,” Mrs Akbar said.
“According to the Child Welfare Decree, the Ministry has the powers to intervene when a child’s safety or welfare is put to risk.
We want to see that all the children attend school and if any child is found begging in the streets, they will be taken into state care. Currently, there are 5 children who well looked after in the residential homes, these are the ones who were found begging on the streets with their mother, the youngest one was one month old,” Mrs Akbar said.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr Ben Groenewald said that one of the other key areas the police will focus on is addressing domestic violence.
He said that the police will continue to raise awareness on such issues through community policing and discussions with Hon. Minister has brought out issues which needs immediate attention. It will assist the Police to streamline their services in areas of protecting women and children from violence and injustice.
Meanwhile, the Fiji’s First Rehabilitation Centre for Beggars called, “Good Samaritan Inn” in Colo-i-Suva was officially opened by the Hon. Minister Rosy Akbar today. The Colo-i-Suva-based centre is aimed to house and empowered able-bodied people who used to beg on streets in major urban centres around the country by giving them an opportunity to have skills training and venture into employment and sustainable livelihood projects.