Over the past few months, villagers in Taveuni have seen a surge in criminal activity and numerous complaints have been lodged at the local police station as well as the District Officer’s office.
Drunk and disorderly was also a common issue in the Island, and villagers were weary and concerned about this ongoing issue knowing how it can be an influencing factor to the upcoming youths.
In the last two months, Taveuni Community Policing Coordinator Corporal Mikaele Ropate Ramanu wrote a concept paper outlining an awareness program initiative as a response to the rising issues they’re currently facing.
In his overview of the initiative, Corporal Ramanu introduced the “Duavata Youth Engagement Programme” and part of the programme, he planned an in-Island 15s rugby competition.
For the past seven years, 15s rugby competition hasn’t been played on the Island and the introduction of the Duavata programme has revitalized the game.
After consultation with the DO office and other Government stakeholders, the Duavata engagement programme was given the green light and was officially launched on 12 September.
Every week teams from all villages in Taveuni come together to play in a weekly club competition, and for the past 6 weeks of competition, people around the island have notice a drop in crime rate.
Corporal Ramanu said that youths and men around the Island now have shifted their focus from the previous activity they’ve been associated with, to fully focusing in their preparations towards the weekend’s competition.
“We can see a big change, there have been no drunk and disorderly cases around the Island, the crime rate has dropped this past 5 weeks and this is because they’re now focused on rugby, preparing for the competition ahead of them,” Ramanu said.
Every weekend during the club game competition, various government stakeholders are also present at the ground to deliver their specific awareness or workshops, spreading their services and message to the people of Taveuni.
“Rugby can really impact our youths and this is why we’ve integrated this sport into our Duavata awareness programme, just after 4 weeks we see how it’s changing our young men’s mindset, from negative to positive and also this sport not only build their character but also sets a bright future for them,” Ramanu added.
Ramanu is optimistic about their awareness programme and emphasized how this initiative will be a good platform to form their own rugby union.
“This Duavata Initiative will also be a platform to establish the Taveuni Rugby Union, with the 7 districts here in Taveuni we’re aiming to form our own 15s team and hope to compete in top-level domestic competition.”
“This doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be part of Cakaudrove Rugby Union, we’re just trying to make use of our home-grown talents in- Island as the majority of these boys remain here and doesn’t play in the main Island, so this is an opportunity for us to use these players and get them to the top-level that might secure them good contracts.”
Ramanu explained that they’re now moving to the next phase of the Duavata tournament which is to begin their “Duavata Trophy Challenge”
“For the next 2 weeks, we’re looking at kicking off our Trophy Challenge and all teams we’ll be challenging the holder of the trophy, something similar to the Farebrother Challenge.”
“What we’re running here is basically something that’s engaging our youths, this are our main targets, the youths, so we’re trying to use rugby as a tool to bring them together and help them evolve in life.”
“Taveuni is well known for producing good 7s teams, and this step we’re taking can help us venture into the 15s platform,” Ramanu added.
Rugby is the main tool in this Duavata Engagement initiative, and it has brought the people of Taveuni together while engaging them and providing awareness mostly to the youths.