‘There has been little research to date that has practically mapped how community-level justice through chiefs mainly, but also religious leaders and family members and state justice (including courts and police) actually function in Vanuatu, both on their own and as part of a broader system. Understanding this broader system and some of the assumptions upon which it is based is crucial for Vanuatu to be empowered to navigate its own path towards access to justice for all its citizens. This research [Conflict Management and Access to Justice in Rural Vanuatu report] supports us to do this.’
Hon Ronald Warsal, Vanuatu’s Minister for Justice and Community Services.
Project name: Support for Women in Shared Decision Making (WISDM) work on Temporary Special Measures (TSM) at Municipal and Provincial Level
Outcome area: Leadership and decision making
Project partner: Pacific Leadership Program (PLP)
Total funding: $250,000*
Funding timeframe: 2014–2017
The implementation of TSM legislation for women to be elected into councils at municipal level in Vanuatu ensures a minimum 30 percent representation of women. Activities supported by Pacific Women encourage learning exchanges at municipal level as well as building the capacity of potential women leaders to stand for provincial elections.
The TSM legislation in Vanuatu is designed to achieve a quota of 30-34 percent of women municipal councillors for a period of 16 years (four election cycles). The introduction of the legislation at municipal level in 2013 led to the election of nine women councillors in the 2014 Port Vila and 2015 Luganville Municipal Council elections.
Party officials in Luganville saw the potential and opportunity in using TSM to gain seats for their respective parties in the Municipal Councils. Compared to Port Vila, where women self-nominated to stand for election, women in Luganville were identified by political parties as potential candidates through their husbands or male relatives. Pacific Women and PLP partnered with the WISDM Taskforce, led by Vanuatu’s Department of Women’s Affairs, to facilitate a learning exchange program between elected women members of two municipal councils, and provide training for potential provincial council members.
Like all elected officials, the newly elected women councillors were briefed on the functions of the Council and their roles as duty bearers.
The peer-to-peer learning exchange program for municipal women councillors provided a space to share their challenges and make recommendations on the type of support needed for women candidates before, during and after elections. Recommendations included involving male participants in future workshops to generate support for TSMs at provincial and national level, as well as to ensure that all candidates understand electoral procedures and prioritise issues that affect their communities.
It was also a space where negotiations were made across party lines, and resulted in the nomination (and eventual election) of the first woman Deputy Mayor in the Luganville Council. The Port Vila women councillors had been working together longer (since 2014), had more political experience and were more comfortable in working across party lines to progress issues of common concern.
A Port Vila woman Councillor stated: ‘Yes we are working together, so if one of us finds an opportunity [we] bring it to the council then all of us are working on it…although we represent different political parties.’
The successful implementation of TSMs at the municipal level has encouraged the Government to formally consider TSMs at provincial level. The WISDM Taskforce has embarked on a series of electoral candidate workshops in the provinces to prepare women and men candidates of various political parties for provincial elections. These workshops have incorporated lessons learned from the experiences of the women councillors, to work across party lines and ensure their readiness to stand for elections.
*This activity is part of a larger program.
Project name: UNICEF Pacific Child Protection Program
Outcome area: Ending violence against women
Project partner: UNICEF
Total funding: $7,000,000*
Funding timeframe: 2014–2018
Gender-based violence, especially sexual violence, is known to increase in the wake of natural disasters. When tropical cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, UNICEF’s immediate emergency response was to protect women and children from gender-based violence, and provide them with a variety of holistic assistance.
About two thirds of Vanuatu’s children were affected by tropical cyclone Pam in March 2015. Pacific Women assisted UNICEF to support children’s psychosocial needs and ease children’s return to school and normalcy following the cyclone. This protected them against potential abuse and exploitation, which increases when children are out of school.
Theatre was also used as a medium to socialise child protection issues, emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction messages with communities on Efate, Tanna and Aniwa islands.
Written, produced and performed by the Narongtong Theatre Group, the play was based on the life of a mother who is separated from her husband and the challenges she and her teenage daughter face. It addressed issues of violence, abuse and exploitation in communities.
A total of 1,484 adults (816 women and 668 men) and 298 children (162 girls and 136 boys) watched the play on the three islands. The audiences were engaged in discussions about child protection after the play. As a result, the play raised awareness and knowledge of child protection issues in emergencies among leaders, parents, caregivers and duty bearers and created the potential for positive behaviour change.
UNICEF also worked with the Ministry of Youth Development, Sports and Training to deliver training to 1,272 service providers (561 women and 711 men) on child protection in emergencies and psychosocial support. Participants included teachers, faith-based organisation staff and youth leaders. These service providers organised activities to promote psychosocial support in their communities, including structured play and recreational activities.
*This activity is part of a larger program.
Project name: Research on improved access to justice for women and children
Outcome area: Ending violence against women
Project partner: Policing and Justice Support Program (Vanuatu)
Total funding: $120,000
Funding timeframe: 2015–2016
A Pacific Women-funded study into the management of community-level justice issues on the island of Malekula suggests pathways for improving access to justice for women in the future.
The Conflict Management and Access to Justice in Rural Vanuatu report was prepared as part of the Australian Government’s Policing and Justice Support Program (Vanuatu). It identified the kinds of conflicts that are prevalent in communities; examined how conflicts are managed and resolved by individuals, institutions and processes; and explored peoples’ experiences of those broader justice processes and institutions.
‘There has been little research to date that has practically mapped how community-level justice through chiefs mainly, but also religious leaders and family members and state justice (including courts and police) actually function in Vanuatu, both on their own and as part of a broader system,’ explained Hon Ronald Warsal, Vanuatu’s Minister for Justice and Community Services.
‘Understanding this broader system and some of the assumptions upon which it is based is crucial for Vanuatu to be empowered to navigate its own path towards access to justice for all its citizens. This research supports us to do this.’
The findings and recommendations have particular importance for gender equality programing because conflict relating to violence against women, particularly by an intimate partner, is most commonly dealt with within a community setting. More often than not, state justice processes will not be involved. The research therefore looked specifically at women’s experiences of conflict and their access to justice.
It is the first time this type of research has been undertaken in Vanuatu. Researchers were drawn from a number of organisations including the Vanuatu Women’s Centre, CARE and the Vanuatu Law Commission. They interviewed more than 800 women, men, community leaders, police and state justice representatives across Malekula.
The research showed that men, women and leaders at the community level who are involved in managing conflict have limited understanding of the state laws that govern them and their human rights. They expressed a clear interest in acquiring greater knowledge of state institutions and processes.
Additionally, leaders at community level who are responsible for managing conflict would like greater support from the state for conflict management and implementation of justice measures.
The findings will be used as a solid evidence base to develop future program support at government and community level to strengthen access to justice, including women’s access to justice, in rural areas on Malekula.