Nov 29, 2020 Last Updated 3:47 AM, Nov 26, 2020

In my family, October 10 marks the day that my grandparents started their life together. Some 61 years ago, on a little island seemingly in the middle of nowhere, a young man and woman made promises to love and support and care for each other, no matter what.

In the years that followed, they brought life into this world, raised children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They opened their home to family and friends. They laughed, they cried, they experienced joy and they experienced unimaginable pain.

Life happened.

But the one thing they never did was do it alone.

They raised children, who in-turn raised grandchildren to believe that this is the standard by which life is to be measured. Success, or however you want to call it, is to be measured in the moments we choose to hold each other up, to support each other, to take responsibility for our own actions, to unapologetically allow ourselves to experience the full spectrum of human emotion, and it is tested in the moments we choose solesolevaki over flying solo.

Naturally, when I was asked to reflect on Fiji at 50, my benchmark was pretty high. So, my dear reader, if you’re looking for a pretty story that focuses on the peaks and shies away from the valleys, I’m afraid this maybe isn’t the one for you, and I would advise that this is the point to do a full 180.

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WHILE the Fiji National Budget 2016 - 2017 allocation towards the people with different abilities was a sign of progressive realisation, lack of facilities towards accommodation was still a concern for many. According to some youth representatives of the different abled people, while the initiatives outlined in the budget were commendable, allocations within the budget towards providing persons with different abilities appropriate support mechanisms on a daily basis was something they would have liked to see more of .

Fiji Disabled People’s Federation youth group vice president Luisa Mana explained that persons with special needs had different impairments that required different sorts of support to go through the day without any health complications or misunderstandings in communication – and it made matters worse as most people living with impairment are below the poverty line.

“Most persons with disabilities who are unemployed, need medical supplies like diapers, dressing materials for sores, urine bags and mobility device like wheelchair, walker, crutches not forgetting carers, sign language interpreters and guides,” she said. “All needs mentioned are expensive and not easily accessed by all persons with disabilities here in Fiji. Hence, most persons with disabilities are still below the poverty line struggling to make ends meet, is the reality for many of us. Arti Devi, person with different abilities from a private sector acknowledged that major buildings in the city area did have “pretty good accessibility”, but not all people with special needs lived in the urban area.

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New framework to bring about changes

Young people, particularly children, young women and people living with disabilities, have traditionally been marginalised in development processes and hurt by systemic and structural discrimination and inaction. This, according to Rebecca Solomon, needs to change. Solomon, a young woman from Vanuatu, is an active member of the Vanuatu National Youth Council, the Pacific Youth Council and also the Commonwealth Youth Council. On December 7, 2013 she, along with her youthful colleagues, addressed Pacific ministers responsible for youth at a meeting convened at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia. She said it is time for a change so that we can “turn our scars into stars”. She urged Pacific governments to endorse the Pacific Youth Development Framework, which aims to engage youth and work towards securing higher standards of education and training for them, as well as increased employment opportunities, improved health and well-being and environmental stewardship. “My peers and I need to see more of these types of collaboration and coalition for continuous growth and development so that we can be positive citizens,” said Solomon.

Delegates to the ministerial meeting in December responded positively and endorsed the new 10-year Pacific Youth Development Framework that will begin implementation in January this year. The framework reflects the consensus and inputs of young people, youth specialists, government officials and development agencies in the Pacific. “The new Pacific Youth Development Framework is different from its predecessor, the Pacific Youth Strategy,” says Mereia Carling, SPC’s Youth Adviser. “Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it is informed and prioritised by youth. The participation of young people in the development of the framework, including the most marginalised of young people, has been central and will be the key to its success.

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