‘I had a different vision of what the word [feminism] meant. And then I sat there and got educated by Ms Ali [Shamima Ali the Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre] and realised that I am a feminist!’
Mr Vierra Toribiong, counsellor and advocate, Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs, Palau.
Project name: Regional support for male advocacy
Outcome areas: Ending violence against women, enhancing agency
Project partner: Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) and Government of Palau
Total funding: $17,998
Funding timeframe: 2016
In June 2016, Pacific Women supported two participants from Palau to attend the month long Regional Training Programme run by FWCC. After attending the training, the two counsellors have found they approach their work with a different perspective.
The Regional Training Programme is considered by international donors and agencies to be a best practice model of training in the area of gender awareness and eliminating violence against women.
Mr Wilson Subris is a Spiritual Health Coordinator with the Ministry of Health and Mr Vierra Toribiong works for the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs and has travelled to Palau’s 16 states to deliver awareness training about the Family Protection Act.
Both men found the training ‘an eye opener’. Although they both deal closely with the issue of violence against women as part of their work, Mr Subris explained that the training helped them understand the issues in a new light and approach their work with new insight: ‘This training is unique. The unique thing that I learned here is the link between gender inequality, violence against women, and society’s attitudes around it. The impact of that on me has been huge. I was challenged to just look at where I am, where I was and provide a bigger picture, a more accepting picture. I am very excited and I want to be part of the group of people making the change.’
The course allowed both men to examine the daily inequalities experienced by women and the systems that reinforce this. ‘It’s about control,’ explained Mr Subris. ‘Men usually like to control what women do and expect women to comply with what they want. It’s common both among younger and older men.’
Course topics in the Regional Training Programme include gender and violence against women; religious and cultural justifications for violence against women; counsellor training; and international human rights law and national laws in the Pacific relating to violence against women.
The course gives participants the opportunity to better understand the concepts of gender and feminism. Mr Toribiong confided that before the course he had not understood the difference between ‘feminism’ and ‘femininity’.
‘I had a different vision of what the word meant. And then I sat there and got educated by Ms Ali [the Coordinator of FWCC] and realised that I am a feminist!’
Project name: Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships (PWPP) project
Outcome areas: 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
The Hon Senator Sandra Pierantozzi was Palau’s first woman Senator and first woman Vice President. Now she’s running for President in the country’s November 2016 elections.
Senator Pierantozzi had retired from politics in 2005, but was sworn in once again on 31 December 2015 when she won a special election held after the death of a sitting Senator.
Back in parliament, she chose to attend the PWPP project annual forum for the first time in April 2016.
The event is an opportunity for parliamentarians from the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand to work collaboratively. They can learn from each other, as well as look at finding strategies to overcome the factors that constrain women’s political participation.
‘These Forums are important for women because a lot of times, especially in the men’s world, women are [considered] the homemakers, and that it’s always the men that bring in the bread and is responsible for the financial part,’ explained Senator Pierantozzi.
The fourth PWPP annual forum was held in April 2016 in Samoa with 60 parliamentarians from 21 jurisdictions, including eight male parliamentarians. This year delegates explored women’s economic empowerment.
As a child, after having experienced and witnessed extreme poverty Senator Pierantozzi decided to work hard, stating, ‘I am never, ever, ever going to be poor again,’ and as a woman in business and politics, she has been committed to supporting women’s economic empowerment ever since.
‘I do believe that men and women have roles to play in the family as caretakers and nurturers but both have to survive with or without a spouse, so it’s very important for women to have small businesses and be able to save money for a rainy day as well as use it for expenses.’
Senator Pieranozzi’s confidence in the presidential race is grounded in her belief in gender equality.
‘I always know that if he can do it, I can do it, especially intellectually,’ she said.
Others believe this of her too. When she asked her supporters why they were urging her to run for President, they told her: ‘We want a person who is honest, transparent, accountable, and has integrity. And they say they see that in me and they would like to have a change in government because it has been led by men for so long. Both men and women came to me together.’
*This activity is part of a larger program.