Friday 17 October 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) – Suva, Fiji
Human rights cover many aspects of our everyday life; they include our right to food, shelter, education, health, protection, and freedom of expression. Without them, we lack the ability to satisfy our needs and have a happy, healthy and productive life. Numerous stakeholders have a role to play in the realisation of our rights.
Twenty-five newly graduated lawyers of the University of the South Pacific (USP), currently enrolled in the six-month Professional Diploma in Legal Practice (PDLP) programme, were reminded of their role in contributing to the realisation of human rights in their work during a two-week course – Family Law and Human Rights: Skills and Practice module (LWD 060). The course was facilitated by the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
For the past 14 years, SPC RRRT has been facilitating this two-week module by designing content, training and assessing students twice a year when the Diploma is offered by USP.
The Family Law and Human Rights module includes skills and practice for the application of human rights and family law relevant to the practice of family law in Pacific jurisdictions.
For 25 year-old Nimita Sharma of Fiji (pictured), the two-week course exposed her to real life scenarios of human rights. Nimita also took the opportunity to share her story to inspire positive motivation in young girls and women to pursue their dreams. Here is her story:
‘I was married at the age of 18 into a traditional Indo-Fijian family. I had my housewife duties to perform and my two children to look after but I also knew about my right to education. I was determined to pursue a degree in law. But to go out of the house and study in an institution would not sit well with the family. Thankfully, I learnt about online courses by USP. I approached my husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law and explained to them my intention to study. Although it seemed unusual at first, they supported my idea and after more than four years of hard work and perseverance, I completed 32 law courses successfully.
‘My goal was to complete my studies and support my children, husband and extended family. And I worked hard for it. I did not want to be dependent on my husband, although he is financially secure. My degree is my security and, with that, I will be able to give back to my mum, husband and extended family what they have sacrificed for me over the years.’
The journey was not an easy one for Nimita. Being a young wife and studying to be a lawyer raised many eyebrows in her community, with some passing cynical comments, such as ‘When she becomes a lawyer, she will file for divorce.’
Nimita saw many injustices in her community, particularly cases of violence against women and husbands deserting their wives and children. Nimita always wanted to do something about the injustices and the family law course has empowered her with skills and knowledge to promote the rights of vulnerable groups.
'I found the family law sessions very informative. I have learnt a lot from the course and will take those skills and knowledge with me to the field. Being an online programme, PDLP is a great opportunity for me to learn directly from the course facilitators and I must say the SPC team is a professional team with great wealth of knowledge and experience in this area,’ Nimita said.
Aspiring to be a public prosecutor and advocator of human rights, Nimita aims to take on any opportunity that comes her way, even if she has to start with some volunteer work to gain more experience to be able to advocate for the rights of vulnerable groups wherever she serves.
The Family Law and Human Rights content is based on international best practice standards and principles and on experience from throughout the Pacific. The strategy is to introduce lawyers to be aware of human rights, ensuring that basic human rights are considered in their work in the future, whether in government, private practice or civil society organisations. Topics covered include human rights and HIV, sexual and reproductive health rights and domestic violence.
Partners who support SPC's human rights programme in facilitating some key sessions of human rights and family law include private law firms, non-governmental organisations and UN agencies.
SPC's Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) has pioneered human rights training in the Pacific region, working to build a culture of human rights and assisting nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. It is funded by the Australian Government.
For more information, please contact Jilda Shem, SPC Human Rights Programme (RRRT) Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected].