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39 graduate from FWCC’s flagship training programme

39 graduate from FWCC’s flagship training programme

SUVA (1 July 2016) - The 35th class of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre’s Regional Training Programme (RTP) graduated yesterday (30 June 2016) after a month of learning about gender, violence against women, human rights, relevant laws and advocacy tools.

The 39 participants came from seven Pacific countries – Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

The 25 women and 14 men represented various organisations working in the area of eliminating violence against women and allied fields. Among those represented were women’s centres, police forces, local government, health services, sporting and faith-based organisations and people with disabilities.

Officiating at the graduation, Christina Munzer, Australia’s Counsellor, Development and Cooperation for Fiji and Tuvalu, commended the participants for the “significant effort” put into the four-week programme.

She encouraged the graduates to coordinate and work together to tackle violence against women across the region because it is one of the biggest challenges facing the Pacific today.

“The challenge is daunting but we must continue to advance one step at a time,” said Ms Munzer.

Citing research, Ms Munzer flagged the extremely high rates of violence against women and girls across the Pacific, including in Fiji where at least 64 per cent of women who have ever been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

She said the causes of domestic violence are complex so responses also needs to be comprehensive, requiring a focus on both prevention and response.

“I think we can agree that the time for passiveness has long gone. And the silence on violence against women and girls has been broken. It’s now time for action,” Ms Munzer said.

Ms Munzer said Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) is a “cornerstone” of the Australian government’s commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

“The centre is one of our key partners in our efforts to address violence against women in Fiji and the Pacific. The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre has been recognised as a centre for excellence in the region for its programmes on ending violence against women and has established itself as a leading organisation that provides high quality, relevant and efficient services for women,” said Ms Munzer.

FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali noted that while women have always been at the forefront of the work to eliminate gender-based violence, she had “a lot of hope in the men of the Pacific” who were beginning to come on board as advocates for women’s human rights.

Ms Ali said in the 20 years since the first RTP, she has noticed an increase in receptiveness of discussions around violence against women and that participants were coming in with some foundational knowledge about the issue that just needed “to be honed a bit”.

She said perceptions of women’s roles in culture and religion continued to be a challenge to eliminating violence against women but that many people now realised that culture and religion are societal constructs whose damaging aspects could be changed.

There were 19 participants from Fiji, including seven police officers and two from the Fiji Volleyball Federation.

Vierra Toribiong of the Palau Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs said the training had been a “tremendous experience” that he hoped would one day lead to a better world for his daughters.

“It’s a very big step for us men in the Pacific. I’m going to do my best and I know I share this passion with the rest of my brothers,” Mr Toribiong said.

Despite the challenges and sensitivities surrounding violence against women and how men could support women in responding to it, Mr Toribiong said he would commit himself to the work.

Since 1995, more than 800 women and men from around the Pacific completed the Regional Training Programme aimed at addressing one of the most pervasive human rights violations of our time.

ENDS

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