A youth from Kiribati’s journey to end corruption in the Pacific
By Rae Bainteiti
Photo credit Raimon Kataotao, Humans of Kiribati
My name is Itinterunga Rae Bainteiti and I am fighting to end corruption in my native Kiribati, a remote island nation in the Central Pacific Ocean with a population of approximately 103,000 people, of which about 50% are youth.
I have been working with local non-governmental organizations since 2012 and I am the co-founder of the Kiribati Children Campaigners Network (KCCN), an organization that campaigns for the development of young people in Kiribati by providing them with opportunities for training and activities through which they can improve their skills.
In February 2015, I was invited to represent Kiribati at the Pacific Youth Forum against Corruption, the first training for regional youth leaders, which aimed to raise awareness on the size, scale and impacts of corruption and which was funded by the UN Regional Anti-Corruption Project (UN-PRAC) in partnership with the Pacific Youth Council. When I was preparing for this forum, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information and stories that I collected from organizations and community members that I had visited. I realized then that corruption has existed in Kiribati for some time and seemed to remain an important issue.The forum allowed young people to dialogue freely about corruption cases and issues at country levels and it felt somewhat like “history in the making” because this kind of topic is not normally talked about among youth in Kiribati.
My participation in this event was a major turning point in my life, and was my motivation to pursue more ways to stand up and fight against corruption. At the end of the forum, participants created the Pacific Youth Forum Against Corruption Network, under the Pacific Youth Council, which became a platform to share stories and good practices for youth from across the region as well as capacity building programmes and funding opportunities to support youth work on anti-corruption initiatives. The network envisages a ‘corruption free Pacific’ and empowers youth leaders to continue their work as anti-corruption champions in their respective countries.
As a youth returning from the Forum, I felt empowered to start working on anti-corruption by raising awareness about the issue. In February 2015, I started an anti-corruption workshop with our members of the Kiribati Children Campaigners Network and then went out to do outreach to local schools and communities. In March 2015, we also conducted a one day anti-corruption workshop with Island Community Workers and Women’s Interest Workers for a week-long training with the Kiribati Local Government Association in the capital.
From then on, our networks grew and we were able to secure partnerships with the local government for further collaboration on anti-corruption programmes in the future. A few months later, in September 2015, I had the opportunity to participate as a youth delegate to the International Anti-Corruption Conference, in Putrajaya, Malaysia on the topic of Ending Impunity – People, Integrity, and Action.
With the experience and knowledge I gained from participating in the two forums, the Kiribati Children Campaigners Network was able to design programmes to address corruption issues in the local context, which aim to empower youth and community members, raise awareness about corruption, and increase engagement with government ministries.
In March 2016 I also had the opportunity to speak at the Mayor’s Clerk and Civil Society’s Forum, which was the first time that a youth was able to speak to elected leaders in Kiribati on the topic of corruption and the importance of their role as elected officials and local government representatives. It was a wonderful experience and the event seemed to be an eye-opening experience for many who were present.
Young leaders met in April 2016 for the UN Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption Project (UN-PRAC) and the Kiribati Children Campaigners Network (KCCN) ‘Integrity workshop’, which was the first national workshop held with youth on corruption, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Kiribati National Youth Association of NGOs. The Kiribati Islands Corruption Kickers Network (KICK Network) was created as a result of this event and it now collaborates with other local associations and publishes a monthly newsletter to share information with all of its members on anti-corruption related work in Kiribati and the Pacific. Our vision is to build a coalition of youth who can work together to raise awareness in Kiribati about corruption and hopefully to allow them to influence key policy spaces in order to prevent it.
One of the constraints that we encounter is meeting the costs of the high number of requests for training sessions that we receive from rural councils, schools and community members. In light of financial constraints, we often work with the help of available funding from partners and we will continue to work this way, in the short term, to reach out to communities and organizations. However, our longer term goal is to have the KICK Network strengthened as a space for young people to be empowered. We also want to meet with key government Ministers, officials and organizations to dialogue about possible collaboration and funding avenues to get the training started in all the islands.
I believe that the work we do is very important in addressing social injustices, in particular those related to corruption. My advice for young people who are on the frontline of this work is to continue the good work that they do. For those who plan to join in the fight against corruption, it is important that they know they will be helping to shape the future they want for the next generation.
I am involved in this cause because I am fighting to shape the world of the future children and youth of Kiribati and the Pacific. It is never too late to try.
I have a long road ahead since the story does not end here, but for now, I leave with you with Kiribati’s blessing of Te Mauri Te Raoi Ao Te Tabomoa (Health, Peace, and Prosperity).
About the Author:
Rae Bainteiti, aged 26, is a Banaban from Kiribati and was raised and educated in Fiji. He is the editor of the KICK’in It Newsletter.
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