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Partnerships critical in Pacific Approaches of Activism

Partnerships critical in Pacific Approaches of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

(Wednesday 6 December 2017 – Suva, Fiji) – Today’s talanoa on the Pacific approaches to what works to end violence against women and girls highlighted the critical need for all Pacific communities to work together, with a focus on prevention.

Currently, the Pacific region has double the global average of women – two out of three women - who experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

The talanoa was held during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The dialogue’s critical discussion about various Pacific and global approaches to end such violence, also builds on regional commitments on gender equality including the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration (PLGED).

Panellist at the talanoa, Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum spoke of the importance of structural support to address gender-based violence including initiatives that address financial costs of the issue.

“We have made a lot of progress improving essential services and enacting legislation to better protect women from violence but now we must focus on implementation and we must be relentless; working together from within communities to private sector,” Dame Meg said.

“We know that laws and policies are not enough, and that efforts to stop violence need to be equally reflected across all levels of society - to stop violence before it starts we must also support community actions and work with people in villages and towns.”

UN Women Multi-Country Office (MCO) Representative, Aleta Miller added that the PLGED’s Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016 highlighted the challenge of changing societies’ attitudes and behaviours, termed ‘social norms’, that sometimes form barriers making it difficult for community members to break the cycle of violence against women and girls.

“Transforming harmful social norms that perpetuate violence against women is fundamental to achieving gender equality and eliminating violence against women and girls,” said Ms Miller.

“To learn more about the solutions and challenges of preventing violence, UN Women commissioned the Pacific Regional Consultation on Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls in 2016 that recommends key strategies including a long-term systematic approach at all levels of society to effectively create a positive, long lasting change in attitudes, beliefs and behaviour.

“These approaches include collaborating with faith-based and traditional groups such as provincial councils and villages; education channels, both formal and non-formal; sporting approaches, plus supporting the development of a strong civil society that contributes to improved social norms.”

Faith-based advocacy to end violence against women and girls is a focus area for Reverend Sereima Lomaloma of the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia and a founding member of theHouse of Sara.

“We’ve had to go back and look at the biblical text, and look at the misinterpretations and correct that to be the proper interpretation, as that is what has really contributed to harmful social norms,” Reverend Lomaloma said.

“And it’s not enough to do just awareness training, but we have to go deeper in the community.”

Tura Lewai, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) Male Advocate for Women’s Human Rights, National Change Officer with International Planned Parenthood Federation added that “working with men is an effective way of violence prevention since most of the cases of violence are from men themselves.”

“As men, it is an ongoing process to unlearn and deconstruct the aspects of our behaviour that condones and promotes violence,” said Mr Lewai. “It’s a process where-by you are deconstructing and redefining what it means to be a "man" on a daily basis. We can change, we must change.”

Vanuatu Women’s Centre Director Merilyn Tahi underlined the critical importance of awareness-raising to complement national legislations or policies; the Centre’s outreach includes specific work from men in community and church leadership roles to school boys.

“I would like to say for Vanuatu, I appreciate the work that has been done by the leaders from 2012 to have this gender equality declaration: it helps with people like me who are advocating and lobbying [for related policies and legislations],” Ms Tahi said.

“Raising awareness is a big element in our work and I’m happy to say that I think we’ve made Vanuatu talk about violence. Many of us in our homes refuse to talk about domestic violence so how can we stop it because if we cannot stop it in our homes then we cannot stop it in our communities.”

The dialogue generated critical discussion on the issue of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and its prevalence in the Pacific region; the panellists covered among other aspects of the issue, including best practices for preventing VAWG.

The Talanoa was hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, with support from the UN Women Multi-Country Office (MCO) in Fiji.


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