‘When women and girls become victims of domestic violence and abuse, it affects the entire family and it causes emotional, mental, physical anguish that victims suffer through lifetime. […] As a nation, we cannot allow this to continue and we cannot be passive; we must work together to join hands and intensify effort to eliminate this scourge.’
Hon Rosy Akbar, Minister for Health and Medical Services (former Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation), Fiji, 2015.ix
‘Men don’t punch the first person they meet, they wait until they get home. That’s not about anger, that’s about power… the more people realise this, the less excuses they can make for perpetrators.’
Tura Lewai, Pacific Male Advocate for Women’s Human Rights, UN Secretary General’s Network of Men Leaders (2016)x
Violence against women and girls takes many different forms in the Pacific. These include intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual assault, sexual exploitation and trafficking, and harmful practices such as bride price and accusations of sorcery. Prevalence of these types of violence is high in the region; in most countries it is much higher than the global average of 30 percentxi. Rigorous surveys of intimate partner violence against women across the region show prevalence rates range from 68 percent in Kiribatixii, 64 percent in Solomon Islandsxiii and in Fijixiv, 48 percent in the Republic of the Marshall Islandsxv and 33 percent in Tongaxvi.
Preventing and responding to violence against women is a key element of Pacific Women. The program supports a wide variety of partners to both prevent violence and to respond in a holistic and integrated way to the many needs of women and children who are survivors of physical and sexual violence. In addition, it supports partners in the critical area of improved data collection and analysis on types and prevalence of violence.
Pacific Women works with a range of partners to facilitate prevention approaches that engage multiple stakeholder groups. Local partners can most effectively provide analysis of the socio-cultural factors that drive specific forms of violence in local contexts. This helps to identify risk factors and social norms that perpetuate violence, as well as structures that hold these norms in place and influence attitudes and behaviours. Global evidence is finding that working through multiple entry points to change social norms and challenge unequal gender power relations is effective in preventing violence against women.
Community mobilisation, awareness raising, education, and group-based interventions that work with men, women, girls and boys are other globally tested strategies supported by Pacific Women to prevent violence.
Engaging men and women in prevention initiatives is a way to examine gender power dynamics and promote discussion of social and cultural norms. This is being done by coalitions, faith-based organisations and by rural community groups and is the focus of research and evaluation. In addition, across Pacific Women’s other areas of work on leadership, economic empowerment and enhancing agency, the program is striving to strategically strengthen women’s abilities to claim their rights to live free from violence.
Violence against women related programming comprises the largest type of work supported by Pacific Women. A total of 36 activities have a primary focus on ending violence against women, with these activities underway in eight countries as well as at the regional level. Of the 36 activities funded, 27 also do some of their work in other Pacific Women outcome areas (women’s leadership and decision making or economic empowerment of women). This helps to deliver information and activities to more diverse groups of men and women and can influence and accelerate change in social norms.
The following case studies highlight more details about these initiatives supported by Pacific Women.
Governments, development partners and civil society organisations in the Pacific use a range of terminology when discussing different forms of violence against women and girls. These terms include ending / eliminating violence against women (EVAW), gender-based violence (GBV), and family and sexual violence (FSV). Each of these terms carry nuances of meaning, so the case studies in this report use the preferred language of the relevant partner country and/or organisation.
Project name: Supporting gender equality through ecumenical-based approaches
UnitingWorld: $370,000 (2015–2018)
Pacific Conference of Churches: $83,000 (2016)
House of Sarah: $86,000 (2015–2016)
Christianity is at the heart of Pacific culture with approximately 95 percent of Pacific Islanders (with lower rates in Fiji) identifying as Christians. Pacific Women believes significant positive change in gender equality will come from the work of churches and Christian development organisations using innovative, faith-based approaches.
UnitingWorld, the Pacific Council of Churches (PCC) and the Anglican church supported House of Sarah are working collaboratively across each of their programs targeted at addressing violence against women and girls.
‘The system that I grew up in and the knowledge that was given to me by my parents and the leaders of the church was different – it was that women are inferior to men. It is very important to correct this understanding because women and men are same in the eyes of God. This can only be done if we go back to the roots, which is the Bible. The interpretation of the Bible is so important because it can do good but also harm people if not done correctly.’
Ms Sosefo Tigarea, the Women’s Program Coordinator at the Pacific Theological College, offered these reflections whilst participating in UnitingWorld’s regional Partnering Women for Change program.
With support from Pacific Women, UnitingWorld partners with churches and ecumenical networks in the Pacific to review traditional patriarchal views of the Bible in favour of an inclusive biblical framework. The Partnering Women for Change program also works closely with women’s fellowship organisations to support leadership opportunities for women within churches and community.
The PCC is the peak fellowship organisation of 22 Pacific member country churches. Through the PCC’s awareness programs with indigenous communities, Pacific Women is supporting the introduction of gender equality principles to church members.
Ms Ethel Suri is the Women’s Desk Officer of the PCC. She explained: ‘One of the resolutions from the last General Assembly was for at least five national churches to have policies on eliminating violence against women and at least five national churches to have male advocacy programs in their countries.’
The PCC is working to support churches achieve these goals. It recognises that to be successful, networking is essential. The PCC therefore works with partners to complement the theologically based curriculum. This includes the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (a key partner of Pacific Women).
In Fiji, the Support for Ecumenical Approaches to Ending Violence against Women project conducted by the House of Sarah also strives to challenge those who interpret the bible in a way that views women as inferior to men. The House of Sarah is a non-government organisation (NGO) of the Anglican Church of Polynesia registered in 2012 as a response to the violence against women in faith-based settings. With Pacific Women’s assistance, it conducts workshops with women and young people on the interface between biblical teachings, human rights, violence against women and gender equality. It also supports churches with awareness raising activities on violence against women such as biblio-dramas, messages and liturgies for ‘Break the Silence’ Sunday services. These services occur during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign through the Christian Network Talanoa, a forum of ecumenical partners working to address violence against women in faith-based communities.
This overlap of faith-based and human rights-based teachings about gender equality is extremely important, but also extremely challenging. Reverend Dr Cliff Bird, a Solomon Islands theologian and UnitingWorld’s Pacific Regional Coordinator, described it this way: ‘On the one hand human rights are seen by many ordinary Oceanic peoples as foreign, making claims that are seen as overtly individualistic, unbiblical and unchristian. ‘On the other hand, some human rights organisations and agencies see churches and religions in general in negative ways harbouring church members who perpetrate violence against women and children; condoning, perhaps even justifying violations of human rights within the family, community and church settings, through acts of ‘forgive and forget’ for instance.’
Aside from culture, religion has the reputation for perpetuating gender inequality. Pacific Women’s contribution to these effective faith-based initiatives is working to change that.
Project name: Support for strengthening national coordination, implementation and monitoring for zero tolerance towards family and sexual violence
Project partner: United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
Total funding: $4,500,000*
Funding timeframe: 2014–2016
An innovative film and photo project is documenting community-based interventions against gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to inspire others to impact change in their communities. It is attracting deserved attention and producing extraordinary reactions for the storytellers.
Yumi Kirapim Senis is produced by creative arts researchers Dr Jackie Kauli and Dr Verena Thomas. They worked with the UNDP on the Pacific Women supported documentary series to capture community led initiatives in six PNG communities.
Yumi Kirapim Senis means ‘let’s create change together’, which is what Dr Kauli and Dr Thomas are doing by training local organisations to document how interventions against GBV in their communities have affected them, then sharing these experiences via digital media.
The women from Simbu whose story is documented in one of the films, titled ‘Closing the Gap’, have spent years mediating and mitigating tribal warfare and sorcery related violence. Their efforts have not been recognised before. However, with the launch of the film, the women are now flagged down by people on the street and called ‘heroes’. Nearby districts have called on them to share their expertise with their communities. As a result, they are supporting the Kagle Peace Treaty of the Wara Simbu in the Sinesine Yongumul electorate of Simbu province.
Dr Kauli explained: ‘They [the methodologies depicted in the films] represent models of best practice but the difference is they are home grown. There are loads of documents that highlight the challenges in the GBV response but not enough that present workable solutions. We captured examples of initiatives that are contextualised within communities and they know what to do and form the relationship and negotiate the positions they are in.’
The films are being distributed and promoted as part of the project. Pastors in Simbu have been showing the film ‘Closing the Gap’ as an educational and advocacy tool to reduce GBV and sorcery related crimes. Monitoring of the Yumi Kirapim Senis initiative has shown that in Simbu, people are now more aware of laws on sorcery related violence.
The films have made visible the hard work of local-level advocates and their efforts are being recognised and appreciated.
*This activity is part of a larger program.
Project name: Let’s Make Our Families Safe (Safe Families)
Project partners: Oxfam
Total funding: $5,642,461
Funding timeframe: 2014–2017
In Solomon Islands, the Safe Families project strives to create a country where family and sexual violence is no longer considered acceptable behaviour. It is taking an innovative approach to mobilise communities and build coalitions for action that will change the social norms, values, attitudes and beliefs that drive family and sexual violence.
The program is being piloted in Malaita and Temotu provinces by Oxfam, in partnership with the Solomon Islands National Council of Women, Vois Blong Mere Solomon, International Women’s Development Agency, Pacific Leadership Program and IOD PARC.
Central to Safe Families’ approach is coalition building aimed at initiating collective action towards both prevention of family and sexual violence and also improved service delivery at the provincial level. To this end, the project established provincial alliances in both Malaita and Temotu. These alliances have helped create an environment where community members are able to have meaningful and open discussions about prevalent family violence issues and allow members to develop action plans collaboratively.
‘In the past, NGOs and service providers work[ed] in isolation in addressing GBV,’ explained Mr Eric Sogotee from the Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association in Malaita Province. ‘However with this alliance in operation, I now see that NGOs and CSOs have established and strengthened relationships among themselves and communities and view each other’s work as complementary rather than as competing against each other.’
Ms Martha Rurai, President of the Malaita Provincial Council of Women, has noticed improved coordination of service provision for survivors of violence, as a result of the provincial alliance.
‘In this alliance, we have the police, the health workers, this safe house rep and others who are working to address GBV issues. This space has brought us all together and we know who is doing what. It has contributed a lot to improving the referral system, so when a victim goes to access the police service, this victim would then be referred to next appropriate service provider, whether the hospital or the safe house.’
The provincial alliance in Temotu is generating similar engagement. Mr Godfrey Kolia, the Temotu Provincial Alliance Coordinator said there has been increased attendance in alliance meetings ‘as a result of alliance members realising the importance of collaborative effort and coordination at the provincial level.’ He remarked: ‘Some members who are not invited can now turn up as they were driven by interest in working together to address the deadly issue of violence.’
Project name: Pacific Regional Ending Violence Against Women Facility Fund (Pacific Fund)
Project partners: UN Women and the ANGAU Hospital Family Support Centre (ANGAU FSC)
Total funding: $1,500,000*
Funding timeframe: 2014–2015
The Family Support Centre at the ANGAU Hospital in PNG provides holistic care for people escaping domestic or social violence, including sexual violence. From January to September 2015, ANGAU FSC provided medical consultations and counselling support for 799 people, 95 percent of whom were women and girl survivors. With support from Pacific Women, ANGAU FSC has introduced an enhanced data collection tool that enables staff to record the nature of each case.
Data are now being collected around themes such as women living with disabilities, violence during pregnancy and incest. Types of cases recorded using the new system have included abduction, kidnapping and rape, forced hard child labour, child abuse and rape of minors, forced sex and hard labour by step fathers, gang rape, insertion of objects in vagina, attempted murder by intimate partners, attempted suicide, and violence in pregnancy.
The data collected offers an evidence base for developing programs to reduce violence against women and girls and provide appropriate medical and psychological treatment. Through understanding the nature of violence that is occurring, it is possible to develop targeted activities in response.
Data is also collected regarding the treatment provided at ANGAU Hospital. For example, in 387 cases, patients reported feeling mentally healthier after receiving counselling support. The reporting also shows how ANGAU FSC is linking with other services for survivors of violence: 175 cases were referred to the new Case Management Centre in Lae (Femili PNG also a Pacific Women partner) to support further follow up and 110 of the 263 medical reports that were written were issued to survivors and the police for court processes.
ANGAU FSC also uses this information in policy work. They made a substantial contribution to drafting the Gender Based Violence Health Curriculum for health institutions in PNG and made submissions to the parliamentary inquiry into violence against women and children in PNG.
Sr Anastaia Wakon, Sister In Charge of ANGAU FSC, shared: ‘The data management tool is an excellent tool and has been very helpful in recording detailed data and information on a survivor’s medical as well as psychological condition. In the past we recorded all information as normal trauma, not explicitly as medical or psychological. I am proud of this progress as now I am able to report on medical and psychological interventions better. I would like to see the tool being rolled out to family support centres in other provinces’.
*This activity is part of a larger program.