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Fellows from the South Pacific Work in Tandem with Washington, DC-based Anti-Domestic Violence Organizations

October 2012

Lawyers from the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Timor-Leste have descended on Washington, DC, as part of an ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) program that boosts their ability to advocate for and provide legal services to women, particularly those who have experienced violence. The young professionals are spending six weeks working with domestic violence non-profits to learn about U.S. approaches to addressing domestic violence. They will also participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Congress, hosted by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), which gathers more than 250 professional fellows program participants from over 50 countries for a three-day congress in Washington, DC. The event is part of the State Department’s engagement of civil society worldwide and provides current and past fellows the opportunity to discuss their work and network.

ABA ROLI’s 11 fellows are currently working with six DC-based domestic violence organizations. During the course of the fellowship, they will work with their host organizations to develop one or more projects that have potential for direct application in their home countries. As part of past exchanges, projects included a tool kit for lawyers representing a domestic violence victim; a pamphlet for Tongan citizens traveling to the U.S. on their rights in instances of domestic and sexual violence; and a bench card for judges outlining how current Fijian laws are applicable in domestic violence cases.

The ABA ROLI program, which is funded by ECA, is part of the larger State Department Professional Fellows Program. The Professional Fellows Program brings emerging leaders from around the world to the United States for intensive short-term fellowships designed to broaden their professional expertise. Participants are placed in non-profit organizations, private sector businesses and government offices across the country to learn first-hand how issues in their field are addressed in the United States. Thousands of Americans host, work with and learn from the foreign fellows while they are in the United States. 

Several of ABA ROLI’s current fellows share their projects below. They also invite you to offer suggestions and correspond with them about their work. 

Joe Apo

Legal Officer for Family & Sexual Offences
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Joe ApoDuring his time in Washington, Joe Apo will serve as a fellow with The Network for Victim Recovery of DC and will develop a standard application form for victim protection. This form, if adopted, will be used in tandem with affidavits and prosecutorial submissions and will enable the courts to attach a protection order to a bail certificate. This form would eliminate the need for victims to file additional protection requests once the accused has been released on bail. His secondary project will be to develop a brochure and manual to inform victims about the legal remedies available to them in cases of domestic and sexual violence. To connect with Mr. Apo and share your thoughts or suggestions, email him at


Nicolau Dos Reis da Costa

Program Officer with The Asia Foundation
Dili, Timor-Leste

Nicolau Dos Reis da CostaNicolau Dos Reis da Costa is participating in a fellowship with the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project where he will develop simple guides for legal aid lawyers and women’s organizations to use when interviewing domestic violence victims in Timor-Leste. The documents will include sections on addressing victims’ fears, reassuring the victim and the importance of gathering all relevant information. It’s his hope that these will help practitioners obtain clear and concrete information that can later be used during trial, but also will help new lawyers better navigate cultural and gender sensitivities. You can contact Mr. Dos Reis da Costa at


Radhika S. Naidu

Associate Barrister & Solicitor with Messrs Sherani & Co. Legal Firm
Suva, Fiji

Radhika S. NaiduDuring her fellowship, Radhika Naidu will work with the Network for Victim Recovery of DC, an organization that seeks to empower crime victims by providing comprehensive services through community-based education, therapeutic and legal support to achieve justice and encourage self-determination. Over the six-week exchange, she will develop a pamphlet for inclusion in the backpacks provided to sexual assault and domestic violence victims at DC hospitals. The pamphlet will inform victims about their legal rights and about those legal options available to them. She plans to modify this brochure for use in Fiji by working with the Family Law Division of the Judiciary in Fiji and Fiji-based women’s rights organizations. The resulting pamphlet will be submitted to the Attorney General’s office in Fiji. You can email Ms. Naidu at


Helen Roalakona

Legal Officer with the Office of the Public Prosecutor
Waigani, Papua New Guinea

pacific_islands_roalakona_helenHelen Roalakona is working with the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project. She will gather research to compare and contrast those civil approaches available for addressing domestic violence in Washington, DC, with those available in Papua New Guinea. The ultimate objective is to suggest a civil approach that could provide immediate relief and protection domestic violence victims in Papua New Guinea. In drafting this comparison, Helen realizes that she will need to work with stakeholders that include parliament, judges, magistrates, lawyers and domestic violence victims to ensure buy-in for her proposal. For her secondary project she will draft stakeholder-specific frequently asked questions (information sheets) for use in educating on her proposed remedies. You can contact Ms. Roalakona at or


Apaitia Rokotuni

Program Coordinator with Austraining International
Suva, Fiji

Apaitia RokotuniApaitia Rokotuni will be working with the Asian/ Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project while participating in the exchange program. With the organization’s assistance, he will develop a domestic violence awareness tool for children for use by teachers, church workers and other responsible adults. The tool will also provide adults with information on how to identify children living in abusive households and help educate them on steps they can take to assist the child. His secondary projects will be a toolkit for lawyers and service providers on dealing with domestic violence and sexual offences victims with disabilities and a directory on domestic violence service providers in Fiji. The latter is especially important as many organizations in Fiji do not currently collaborate in their efforts to address domestic violence. It’s his hope that the directory will be the first step in encouraging organizations to coordinate and collaborate in their efforts to provide holistic services to victims. You can contact Mr. Rokotuni at


Yoslyn Sigrah

Staff Attorney IV
with the Federated States of Micronesia Supreme Court
Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

pacific_islands_sigrah_yoslynYoslyn Sigrah will be working with AEquitas, an organization whose mission is to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking and human trafficking cases by developing, evaluating and refining prosecution practices that increase victim safety and offender accountability. Her primary project is an assessment of existing Micronesian resources that address the mental and physical health needs of domestic violence victims. The assessment will be submitted to the Department of Health for review, possible modifications and approval. Upon approval, her assessment will be submitted to AEquitas for review, and be used as possible background materials in prosecuting domestic violence cases involving Micronesian citizens. Her secondary project will focus on reviewing and analyzing AEquitas’ “Review of Statutory Compilation on Domestic Violence,” a document that lists and reviews the specific domestic violence statutes in the fifty U.S. states and territories. Her review will inform the domestic violence legislation she plans on drafting and submitting for review to the Chairman of Judiciary and Government Committee, Kosrae State Legislature. This is an area Ms. Sigrah has considerable experience in, having successfully drafted and worked with stakeholders to pass the country’s first maternity leave bill. You can contact Ms. Sigrah at