Caption: (seated on left) Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Sofia Akbar while having conversation with Ms Shiu Mati who is a street beggar in Suva.Photo:SUPPLIED.
The Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, along with Fiji Police, has made a concerted effort to identify street beggars who will be assisted through the soon to be opened Rehabilitation Centre for Street Dwellers in Colo-i-Suva.
The National Beggars Taskforce lead by the Hon. Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Sofia Akbar visited some of the street beggars in Suva this week. Interviews were conducted through which most of the beggars have expressed interest to join the new Rehabilitation Centre to initiate change in their lives.
During her talk with the street beggars, Minister Akbar tried to establish information on individual beggars and reasons for them being on the streets.
40 year old Mr Harish Narayan who sits near Tappoo city said that he is disabled and earns his living through begging. Minister Akbar told Mr Narayan that he could be assisted through a Poverty Benefit Scheme instead of begging. Mr Narayan says that he earns $15 a day and spends most of it on his food, however, once he starts to receive the welfare assistance, he said he won’t have the need to beg.
Similarly, Ms Shiu Mati says she has to beg in order to look after her two granddaughters as their mother has passed away.
“It’s been 10 years since I have been begging on the streets of Suva and I am able to earn from $60 to $100 a week. I have to pay for water and electricity bills and also buy the food for the family. But if given the opportunity to learn new skills to find a decent job, I wouldn’t hesitate to go to the rehabilitation centre. Indeed it’s a good opportunity for street beggars to acquire new skills for us to work hard and earn a dignified life,” Ms Mati said.
During this exercise, there were those who were found to be mentally challenged and said that their families don’t want them anymore. Minister Akbar said the Ministry would work together with the Ministry of Health to provide care and medical treatment for such cases.
For some of the cases identified, their social applications have been processed and will be assisted through the Ministry’s social protection programs. Through such assistance, the beggars will receive a maximum amount of $120 for a household along with the $30 food vouchers.
Fiji’s First Rehabilitation Centre for Street Beggars has been built in partnership with Nazarene Church and with the funding of $100,000 provided by the Fijian Government. The new facility is expected to open by the end of this month and will cater for more than 24 persons for training and accommodation.
Minister Akbar says that the street beggars who will be identified will also be provided the opportunity to benefit from government’s “Welfare to Workfare” Programme that has a budgetary allocation of $500,000 for 2015.
The profiling exercise would continue in Suva as well as other cities and towns in the coming weeks and would be spearheaded by Minister Akbar.