‘I was encouraged by the people of the island in Kiribati that I am from, called South Tarawa, to take part in politics, to run for elections. The support was mostly from men. They asked me if I wanted to be an MP they knew me, my background and came to me with the idea. I listened to them and liked the idea, it felt like a calling in my heart.’
Hon Shiu Fung Kamho, Member of the Kiribati Parliament.


Project name: Judiciary enabling rights outreach to the vulnerable
Outcome area: Ending violence against women
Project partner: Kiribati Magistrates’ Court
Total funding: $125,398
Funding timeframe: 2016 –2017

Pacific Women is supporting the judiciary in Kiribati to reach out to some of the most remote communities in the country. The judiciary’s Enabling Rights project raises awareness both with lay magistrates and the broader community, on issues of procedural fairness in domestic violence cases and access to justice for women and children who have experienced violence.

In Kiribati, judicial staff part of the Enabling Rights project conducted workshops with villages on laws and procedures related to addressing violence against women. Photo: Kiribati Magistrate Court.

Magistrates’ courts deal with the majority of cases involving violence against women. The judiciary in Kiribati includes over 150 lay magistrates. These lay magistrates have important decision making responsibilities in their communities with the support of court clerks, despite receiving no formal legal training.

Over the past two years, the judiciary has been working to build the capacity of the lay magistrates to ensure that the justice system is responding efficiently, fairly and comprehensively in cases involving violence against women and children. This has included interactive training to give lay magistrates a better understanding of the relevant laws and court procedures that exist in Kiribati.

Pacific Women supported the judiciary to continue this training in 2016 as part of an expanded project that also included a community outreach component.

The Enabling Rights project has been designed and delivered by Pacific Judicial Development Programme certified trainers who are also qualified court officers, including both the Chief Registrar, Deputy Chief Registrar, Judiciary Diplomacy and Public Relations Officer and two magistrates in Kiribati. The project uses case studies, role plays and reflections in face to face consultations.

As well as working with lay magistrates, the project engaged with the public to allow them ‘to see, feel and understand positively’ their roles in ending violence against women, particularly with respect to legal responses to the violence and how to access and use the justice system.

The project used two methods to connect with communities. First, a live radio program was broadcast on the national radio station, enabling the awareness messages to reach people living on remote islands.

Secondly, judicial staff conducted three-day community workshops on each of the 19 islands in the Gilbert group with the three-day consultation for the Line group (Kiritimati, Tabuaeran and Teeraina) held in Kiritimati Island. These workshops used existing High Court circuits to outer islands to enable court officers and judges to participate in discussions with the public.

The isolation of these outer islands means that many of the concepts introduced by the project were new and challenging for lay magistrates and court users. However, the facilitators reported that the training resulted in raised awareness of the laws and procedures to deal with cases involving women; and increased competency of lay magistrates to perform their duties. The facilitators perceived that the project will ultimately create a safer and informed society in Kiribati who will be confident to access and use the justice system to bring domestic violence criminals to justice.

Distribution of pamphlets during workshop. Photo: Kiribati Magistrates’ Court.

Project name: Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships (PWPP) project
Outcome area: Leadership and decision making
Project partner: International and Community Relations Office, Australian Department of the House of Representatives
Total funding: $2,850,037*
Funding timeframe: 2013–2018

Parliamentarians in the Pacific come from a range of backgrounds. Together, at the PWPP project annual forum, they share experiences and develop strategies to improve gender equality in the region. The topic of the 2016 forum enhancing women’s economic empowerment was particularly close to the heart of the Hon Shiu Fung Kamho. Hon Kamho is one of just three women in Kiribati’s 45-member parliament and was a successful business operator before entering politics.

Hon Shiu Fung Kamho was elected into the Kiribati Parliament in 2016 and believes there should be more women in leadership roles in her country and the wider Pacific. Photo: Shazia Usman, Pacific Women Support Unit.

‘It is really important for women to be economically empowered,’ Hon Kamho said, reflecting on her own experiences. She started her own import business, distributing general items such as groceries, which grew to include a string of retail shops and eventually a wholesale business. Hon Kamho was elected as a Member of the Kiribati Parliament at the beginning of 2016. Attending the PWPP annual forum for the first time, she highlighted the information sharing aspect of the forum as helpful.

‘We get to hear ideas from different countries its good information to take back to our own countries.’

Working together, 60 parliamentarians from 21 parliaments in the region, including eight male parliamentarians, developed a set of priority actions for Pacific parliaments to promote women’s economic development. Participants will present these to their home parliaments. The PWPP project aims to improve understanding of the factors that constrain women’s political participation, and to build the capacity of women MPs in the Pacific, the institutions in which they work and the staff who support them.

Ms Kamho’s story is a reminder that men as well as women are working to ensure women play a greater role in the country’s decision making: ‘I was encouraged by the people of the island in Kiribati that I am from, called South Tarawa, to take part in politics, to run for elections. The support was mostly from men. They asked me if I wanted to be an MP they knew me, my background and came to me with the idea. I listened to them and liked the idea, it felt like a calling in my heart.’

As one of her country’s elected leaders, she explained: ‘One of my hopes is to have more women in leadership roles, especially in Parliament. Women are passionate and compassionate and are more open to team work. This would add to the economic growth of the country.’

*This activity is part of a larger program.

Project name: UNICEF Pacific Child Protection Program
Outcome areas: Ending violence against women and enhancing agency
Project partner: UNICEF
Total funding: $7,000,000*
Funding timeframe: 2014–2018

Families in Kiribati are participating in UNICEF’s positive parenting program to promote homes, communities and schools that are free from violence, abuse and exploitation. Kiribati also now has one of the strongest legal frameworks to protect girls and boys with the passing of the Juvenile Justice Act in 2015.

Studies in Kiribati have shown that there are high levels of public acceptance of violence as a suitable punishment for children. More than 70 percent of adults admit to using corporal punishment on children at home.

There is an established correlation between violence against children and violence against women by their intimate partners. In Kiribati, women experiencing violence from their husband or intimate partner are seven times more likely than women who do not experience intimate partner violence to report their children are also being abused.

Equipping adults with non-violent disciplinary techniques contributes to ending this generational violence. In consultation with faith-based organisations and community leaders and stakeholders, UNICEF has developed a community facilitation package to promote positive parenting and community action on child protection in the Kiribati language. It will be rolled out with the implementation manual developed to support the Child, Young People and Family Welfare Act 2013.

Pacific Women and UNICEF have also contributed to the strengthening of the legal framework in Kiribati to set standards that will protect the nation’s children. One particularly vulnerable group of children are those who interact with the formal justice system. The newly passed Juvenile Justice Act 2015 puts in place child sensitive justice procedures for child victims, witnesses and offenders.

A separate Juvenile Court will be established, so that children in contact with the justice system will not attend the regular court, which is set up for adults. The court will also have a child friendly space.

At the time the Bill passed into law, there were 10 children being held in adult prisons in Kiribati. The Juvenile Justice Act requires children and adults to be separated in prisons and also limits the detention of children.

*This activity is part of a larger program.