Urban-rural drift issues

Social Empowerment and Education Programme Executive Director Chantelle Khan speaks during the CSO COVID-19 Humanitarian Response Media Conference in Lautoka. Picture: REINAL CHAND

Unemployment caused by COVID-19 is presenting new challenges in rural communities as urban-based Fijians have returned in numbers to their villages.

Non-governmental organisation Social Empowerment and Education Programme (SEEP) said it noted the urban-rural drift and the issues that had developed from this over the past few months, while working with 38 communities.

Director Chantelle Khan said many aspects of village life had radically changed.

“Villagers greatly appreciated the fact that their people were coming back to the village but on the flip side, the numbers in families returning is quite large,” she said.

“Instead of one or two which they could handle and reabsorb them into the community, they had about 10 or 15 coming back and that provides a different dynamic.

“For example, one of our Nadamai’s (maternal grandmother) is a very strong and vocal grandmother who has a very big standing in her community and she’s lived alone in her village for a very long time.

“But because of COVID-19, she will have to take in extra people because she is the single individual in the community and the dynamic changes in that situation.

“With this onslaught of community returning, the community dynamic changes as well.”

Ms Khan said village meetings and rules could also be affected.

“For example, when they have the bose vakoro (village meeting), will everyone respect the rules of such a meeting? Will those coming from the urban setting be able to respect the rules of the village?”

She added that the group was working closely with the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs to engage the 38 communities and create adaptive solutions for the villagers.

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