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Acapella Groups Sing For Change – Preventing HIV

FSPI Press Release: For Immediate Release

Acapella Groups Sing For Change – Preventing HIV Through Promoting Gender Equality

For Immediate Release

Suva , Fiji (3 December 2010) “Men and boys must act pro-actively and take greater responsibility to ensure gender equality. They need also to exercise more responsibility to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and HIV and AIDS. This is the key message of tonight’s event”, says Mr Tura Lewai, Gender and Arts Officer at the Foundation of the People of the South Pacific International (FSPI).

Mr Lewai’s comments come as FSPI launches the Sing for Change – Preventing HIV through Promoting Gender Equality themed Accapella Competition. Also on show will be two FSPI commissioned pieces to reflect the theme and are to be designed by Josua Maitatoga, MHCC Fiji Fashion Week, Emerging Designer.

The event will be held tonight, 7pm, U8 Theatre at the University of South Pacific (USP) to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women from 25 November to 10 December, World AIDs Day on 1 December and Human Rights Day on10 December, 2010.

Mr Lewai himself is also part of an Accapella group, the Dynamic Vocals, which uses drama to communicate powerful messages on rape and violence against women as a means of encouraging behavioural and attitudinal changes in communities.

Men and boys need to be responsible for challenging other men to ‘Say No to Violence’ particularly in their relationships and to actively work together, and challenge each other, towards the reduction of rape and violence against women and girls. “We need to work with men to challenge their risk behaviours, particularly when it becomes detrimental to themselves and to women and girls. For instance, most women cannot ask their husband or partner to wear a condom during sex as some men do not feel that they need to do so. They also feel that women do not have the right to ask them to,” Mr Lewai said.

“The FSPI’s Stepping Stones programme uses the arts as a means of facilitating community conversations around issues such as reproductive sexual health, gender based violence in the context of STIs, HIV and AIDs and teen pregnancies; discrimination and stigma; protection of human rights and encouraging positive and responsible behavior.

“When Stepping Stones first began, we found that even our community-based facilitators were struggling with the concept of gender equality even the women themselves had questions about their own right to equality,” he said.

“We therefore felt that the use of drama was the best form of communicating powerful messages to promote gender equality and encourage community discussions around difficult issues such as gender based violence, STIs, HIV and teen pregnancies. We want to also portray the importance of the risks of physical, emotional and mental blame and stress which women carry with them after they have been raped or beaten. Males can make changes in the way they live and interact with their partners, mums, sisters and women in general,” he said.

“Violence against women is directly linked to sexual risk behavior. If women are not permitted to negotiate the use of condoms, they risk their sexual health. Unequal gender relations and gender based violence is both a cause and consequence of the high incidence of STIs and HIV and AIDS .in the Pacific. Women’s human rights need to be advanced and protected and it is important that men are encouraged to take more responsibility to advocating this” says Ms Margaret Leniston, FSPI Regional Health Programme Manager.

“FSPI is committed continue to support this work with male advocates to reduce risk behaviours and violence against women and girls, to promote gender equality and encourage safe health practices. We continue to collaborate and work alongside agencies like Fiji Women’s Crisis Center (FWCC), the Pacific Islands Aids Foundation (PIAF), United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Fund for Population and Development (UNFPA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the private sector. ANZ is also supporting tonight’s awards,” Ms Leniston said.

“National governments in collaboration with Community Based Organisations make this cooperation and collaboration work more effective across the region to reduce these risk behaviours and reduce violence, particularly against women and girls,.” she said.


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