Fiji launched child helpline service
Community leaders in Fiji are welcoming the launch of the country's Fiji's first Child Helpline service.
Community leaders in Fiji are welcoming the launch of a phone counselling service dedicated to children.
The Child Helpline was launched by the Minister for Women and Children Rosy Akbar and is a joint project of the government, the local charity Medical Services Pacific and network providers Vodafone, Digicel and Telecom Fiji.
The initiative is aimed at creating awareness about child abuse and educating children about their rights.
Indira Moala reports.
The special help line has been opened for children who want to seek counselling, advice, referrals to services and to report abuse. The Helpline's toll-free number 1325 is available 24 hours and its operators are all trained counsellors. The Methodist Church of Fiji says it supports the Children's helpline because it will be good for the community. A spokesperson for the Church James Bhagwan says the Child helpline service can assist children who are seeking help but may not be linked to church or community groups.
JAMES BHAGWAN: The 1325 helpline will give our young people, our children an opportunity to have someone to talk with. For those who don't have that sort of Pastoral safety net in their community, this is a very good way to be able to reach out and find someone who has the right training and the right abilities to be able to provide that counselling and that support.
In partnership with other churches, the Methodist Church of Fiji also helps to run the country's only other existing support phone service called Lifeline. The Director of Fiji Lifeline, a service normally accessed by adults, says there is a definite need for an exclusive helpline service for Children. Anchana Mani says they have often had calls from adults on behalf of children and have also received calls directly from children themselves.
ANCHANA MANI: We believe that such a helpline is definitely something that is needed because of the number of issues that are coming up in the community with regards to child protection and there needs to be an additional avenue for young people and for children to actually reach out and really know where they can go for help.
Ms Mani says callers appreciate phone helpline services because they don't involve face to face contact and callers can remain anonymous. She adds normally everyone in a village community has some degree of affiliation and that can often be a barrier for people asking for help, especially children.
ANCHANA MANI: Often we find in cases of abuse and in cases where children do need assistance, they keep silent about these issues because, you know the issue of confidentiality is definitely something people are quite weary about here because of the nature of communities. So this anonymous service definitely provides that avenue to a person that yes, no one will actually know who I am but I can still voice what I'm feeling and what I'm thinking.
The Minister of Women and Children, Rosy Akbar, says the establishment of the Helpline fulfils one of the recommendations given to Fiji by the Committee on the Conventions of the Rights of The Child by providing an avenue for children to be heard.
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