Legal Momentum’s Vice President for Government Relations Lisalyn Jacobs hosted two Pacific Islander American Bar Association professional fellows this past spring, one from Fiji and one from Papua New Guinea. The U.S. State Department’s Professional Fellows Programs brings persons from other nations to the U.S. for the opportunity to develop and broaden professional expertise. As part of the program, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative partnered with the University of the South Pacific for the Women’s Empowerment Program.
The fellows Lisa worked with, Josephine Advent and Rahkel Mercy, were here for six weeks learning about the Violence Against Women Act, and related advocacy/laws affecting violence against women. Ms. Advent is Senior Legal Policy Officer for the Legal Policy and Governance Branch of the Department of Justice & Attorney General in Papua New Guinea. Ms. Advent’s office handles issues from corruption to terrorism to human rights, and she has been involved in the drafting of Papua New Guinea’s domestic violence protection law. Ms. Mercy is Project Officer for the Pacific Legal Information Institute in Vanuatu, and sources and publishes legal documents from South Pacific nations to create awareness and access to these sources. She is also working to implement effective and efficient state programs for vulnerable populations.
Lisalyn is about to embark on a reciprocal trip to Fiji, sponsored by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, Pacific Fellows Women’s Rights Program. Also travelling to Fiji will be several other groups that hosted fellows this past Spring, including Break the Cycle, Futures without Violence, Equitas and Jewish Women International. The government and citizens of Fiji are currently engaged in a dialogue and expect to inaugurate a new constitution in 2014. The ABA delegation is lending technical assistance to the nonprofits in the country, to help them with their outreach to citizens and plans to include violence against women and related issues in the new constitution. Fiji has had political disruptions since the late 1980's, including several military takeovers of THE government and the current president holding the constitution and free elections suspended. These actions have met with much criticism from various intergovernmental organizations, spurring strong interest in the government/citizen dialogue which will precede the introduction of a new constitution.
During the conference, Lisalyn will be part of a training team presents on engaging with communities and mobilizing constituencies, working with the faith community as a resource, and creating a framework for action planning on a legislative or policy issue, using the example of the Violence Against Women Act to demonstrate how U.S. advocates engaged in some of the core activities leading to a successful outcome. We will be reporting on how that conference turns out.