Ending Violence Against Women

‘Domestic violence is about violence; whether the violence is within the home or outside the home, any violence is wrong.’
Ms Yoslyn Sigrah,Women’s Rights Advocate, Federated States of Micronesia (2017)

‘The persistent high levels of violence that are inflicted by men against women and girls is of great concern and demands much needed attention and action. Violent attacks on women are unacceptable and a criminal act under national law. Violence against women and girls violates a woman’s fundamental human rights.’
Hon. Ronald Warsal,Minister of Justice and Community Development, Vanuatu (2017)


Efforts are continuing across the region to end violence against women. Because of the extent of the problem, activities aimed at ending violence against women account for 45 per cent of program funding. This also recognises that violence against women detrimentally impacts other aspects of women’s lives.

This year, Pacific Women supported 56 activities to change attitudes and behaviours that result in violence. The Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee in Papua New Guinea is partnering with the media to develop guidelines on how violence against women is reported. In Tonga, the Women and Children Crisis Centre’s Stay Safe project in two primary schools and Think Big awareness-raising sessions in five secondary schools have reached 6,000 students in the past three years. Across the program in this reporting period, 257,248 people participated in community awareness about ending violence against women.

Safety initiatives are also supported, such as the three women-only bus services operating in Port Moresby. This partnership between local NGO Ginigoada Foundation and the National Capital District Commission has resulted in 58,000 women passengers accessing safe transport (an average of 265 users per day).

Around 60 per cent of women in the Pacific have experienced violence from an intimate partner or family member. Recognising the profound emotional, physical and social impact this can have, this year Pacific Women supported 13 projects that delivered crisis services (counselling, health and justice services) to 31,844 women and children. This includes the work of the established crisis centres in Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga, as well as the development of the new services Weto in Mour in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the proposed development of the Kiribati Women and Children Support Centre.

Pacific Women supports ongoing collaboration between faith-based coalitions that are working towards reducing violence. The Fiji Council of Churches (nine member churches with a total membership of 395,000) and House of Sarah hosted the inaugural Break the Silence initiative. Church leaders shared messages condemning violence against women on television and radio, as well as sermons that focused on ending violence against women throughout November 2016. The timing aligns with the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. Uniting World’s Gender Equality Theology seeks to address gender inequality through a faith-based lens.

Research and data collection to support analysis and programming is a critical aspect of ending violence against women. Pacific Women supported UNICEF through its Partnerships for Positive Parenting project to conduct a qualitative assessment of parenting practices with 400 people across four provinces of Papua New Guinea. This informed the development of a parenting resources kit.

At a regional-level, Pacific Women’s Synthesis Report on Ending Violence against Women is a resource that summarises learning from global and Pacific research on ending violence against women that can influence activity development and implementation. Lessons highlighted included the need for prevention programs aimed at changing discriminatory social norms to be built on and scaled up, recognising that this requires long-term investment and engagement with stakeholders at all levels, given potential for resistance and backlash. Flexible funding support can provide opportunities for organisations to investigate and test approaches for changing social norms. It can also allow for evidence-based adaptation and local-level research and solutions. Initiatives focused on preventing violence also need to challenge men’s power over women and address gender inequality as a root cause of violence against women.

The case studies that follow highlight some of these different approaches being supported by Pacific Women to end violence against women.


Project name: SASA! Introductory Regional Workshop
Project Partner: UN Women and Raising Voices
Total Funding: $500,000
Funding timeframe: 2016–2017

SASA! is a KiswahiliV word for ‘now’ that is also synonymous with a community mobilisation methodology to prevent violence against women and people living with HIV. Participants in a five-day regional SASA! training have been inspired to implement the approach in their own contexts across the Pacific.

SASA! training participants in Port Moresby in September 2016. Photo: DFAT.

SASA! is an innovative primary prevention model. Women and men are trained to engage with their communities at all different levels to challenge social norms leading to violence.

SASA! was developed by Raising Voices in Uganda, where a randomised controlled trial demonstrated that it reduced the levels of intimate partner violence by 52 per cent and reduced the risk of continued violence in historically violent relationships by 54 per cent. SASA! also reduced acceptance of physical violence and increased the acceptance of women’s right to refuse sex. SASA! is now used in more than 20 countries by more than 60 organisations around the world.

In September 2016, 21 women and 1 man attended a five-day regional SASA! training in Port Moresby. The training was organised by Pacific Women, the UN Women Multi Country Office, and Raising Voices. Participants were Pacific Women and UN Women partners from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu working on ending violence against women and girls.

Participants left the training with plans to take up the methodology. Reverend Sereima Lomaloma from Fijian women’s faith-based organisation, House of Sarah, says,

‘I returned from the SASA! learning in Papua New Guinea convinced that their community mobilisation approach can be adapted to our faith community. We at the House of Sarah will be piloting that in the future and we hope for a partnership with UN Women.’ 

In Kiribati, the Ministry of Women, Youth and Social Affairs will deliver the Strengthening Peaceful Villages program. This program adapts the SASA! model and integrates pre-existing work on violence prevention by the Ministry. In Papua New Guinea, Populations Services International has a design for a full SASA! pilot in Port Moresby and Central Province.

The Pacific Women Roadmap, used to guide future Pacific Women programming, supports implementation of the SASA! approach. The regional training provided the foundation for implementing partners to understand and adopt the initiative in the Pacific.

Project name: Review of Counselling Services in the Pacific
Project Partner: Consultants
Total Funding: $48,636
Funding timeframe: 2016–2017

Quality counselling is a key service in supporting survivors of violence against women. To better understand the status of counselling in the region, Pacific Women conducted a review of counselling services in 14 countries. Ten of the 14 countries mandate the provision of counselling in national legislation against sexual and/or family violence.

The Pacific Women Support Unit coordinated the review of counselling services for survivors of violence in the Pacific. The report was published in March 2017. Photo: Pacific Women Support Unit.

Quality counselling is a key service in supporting survivors of violence against women. To better understand the status of counselling in the region, Pacific Women conducted a review of counselling services in 14 countries. Ten of the 14 countries mandate the provision of counselling in national legislation against sexual and/or family violence.

The review assessed the quality, reach and accessibility of counselling services for survivors of violence.

Through questionnaires, interviews, focus group discussions and country visits, the review identified 85 counselling service providers. Niue reported no counselling services for survivors of violence and 35 per cent of all available services were based in Papua New Guinea or Fiji.

The review found that the most successful organisational models combine counselling services with community outreach, active case management and other integrated services. These include economic, shelter and legal support.

There is a need for improving the qualifications of counsellors, with only 40 per cent of organisations having counsellors with a relevant diploma or degree. Counselling practitioners in 37 per cent of the responding organisations reported having had only one to two weeks’ training or practical experience.

Organisations across all 14 countries reported gaps in counselling services, particularly in remote areas and outer islands. To cover these gaps, counselling service providers use phone and mobile counselling services or community-based first responder initiatives. Other service gaps include for persons with disabilities, survivors with complex trauma or multiple disorders as a result of abuse, LGBTQI7 people and sex worker communities.

Factors contributing to successful counselling outcomes include: strong and innovative leadership, good case management, community first responder networks, understanding the causes of gender-based violence, engagement of community leaders, a rights-based approach, choice of service providers, culturally appropriate services and secure medium to long-term funding.

Barriers to success include: very limited funding from national governments, lack of national-level guidelines and professional standards, inconsistent coordination between agencies, lack of shelter options for survivors, using non-validated  counselling principles, such as encouraging survivors to ‘forgive and forget’, over-reaching beyond existing counselling skills, lack of regular supervision and evaluation, expectation by survivors for direct intervention and limited behaviour change programs for perpetrators.

The review made recommendations on how future programming could use advocacy, funding, education and up-scaling of successful models to improve counselling services. These recommendations will inform and guide Pacific Women’s future work.

7Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex

Project name: Gender Equality Together (GET)
Project Partner: CARE International in Vanuatu
Total Funding: $1,000,000
Funding timeframe: 2016–2019

In Vanuatu, a life skills project working with adolescent girls and boys is showing promising results in changing attitudes towards violence against women. In Vanuatu, CARE’s Good Relationships Free from Violence project (part of GET) gives young people the support and information they need to make good choices in their relationships.

CARE staff discussing challenges and opportunities with women who are part of CARE’s Gender Equality Together program in Dillion’s Bay, Erromango Islands. Photo: Mark Chew, CARE.

On the island of Tanna, 67 per cent of women say they have experienced physical or sexual abuse from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Due to societal norms, both men and women believe that it is acceptable for a man to beat a woman in certain circumstances.

‘Rape, it is not taken particularly seriously’, explains Senior Sergeant Wilfred Nos of the Isangel Police Office in Tanna.

‘They don’t talk heavy—light only. And if a man has whipped his wife and the wife runs, the emphasis is on the wife returning to solve the problem—not on the man’s responsibility to stop beating the wife.’

The project works with young women and men as they are in a strong position to create new and positive norms in their communities for the future. The project teaches adolescents and young men and women that all people have the right to live free from violence and encourages them to take a closer look at their own beliefs and behaviours. This training is helping communities to build a culture where men and women are treated equally.

Chief Chaleson William Koda Ialikawa is a school teacher in Enimahia. He says that young people need to know their rights.

‘Life Skills has been very useful for the youth, especially the young females, as it helps them to build their confidence and to make good decisions, like about pregnancy. Youth were isolated before, but this brings them together and helps them to make good decisions.’

The training challenges young women and men to think about the impact of gender inequality in their relationships and in their communities. It then provides them with the information and support needed to make changes. Ms Juliane Naui explains,

‘Since the training, my husband and I have had good consultation with each other. Now people in the community think that the young couples should follow our example. I think the training is very good and I’d like my husband and I to work together even more’.