As part of heightened efforts to mainstream gender and human rights across the organisation, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) launched its White Ribbon Advocates Programme today to coincide with International Womens Day.
The initiative, which was announced internally in December 2010, involves both male and female staff volunteers from all programmes and levels of the organisation including the Director-General advocating for gender equality and ending violence against women by speaking out and demonstrating in practice that this is both their personal business and the business of SPC.
Twelve advocates have signed up for the programme. They will receive training, after which they will wear a white ribbon at all the meetings, functions and workshops they attend and will, when appropriate, take a few minutes to speak out against discrimination and promote gender equality and womens human rights in all spheres of life, including in the different sectors in which SPC works. Advocates will be given speaking notes to help them do this effectively, as well as small flyers and other advocacy materials to distribute as needed. Their messages will be clear and simple, and they will direct any requests for further information to SPCs in-house gender equality and womens human rights experts.
Work is currently being finalised on the White Ribbon advocates training programme and advocacy materials, with the first training session planned for later this month and advocates commencing their work in the field in April.
In calling for advocates, SPC Director-General, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, acknowledged the still widespread discrimination against women in our region and singled out gender-based violence as one manifestation of inequality between women and men. Dr Rodgers said, Sadly, research shows that as many as two thirds of women in our region experience violence in their own homes.
In addition, he stressed the role of men: We are particularly interested in getting male staff involved, in keeping with the growing and very successful regional male-advocates campaigns, where men act as role models for other men in condemning discrimination and violence.
SPC will offer support to other regional organisations that are interested in the White Ribbon Advocacy Initiative and provide them with relevant material and briefings for distribution to their own advocates.
Two other developments demonstrate SPCs commitment to gender equality and womens human rights. One is the establishment of an SPC Gender Mainstreaming Committee in October 2010. This committee is responsible for monitoring improved implementation of organisational commitment to gender equality and gender mainstreaming. Chaired by SPCs Deputy Director-General, Fekita Utoikamanu, the committee has met twice. The White Ribbon Advocates Initiative is one of a number of planned activities within a comprehensive framework of action to improve gender mainstreaming across the organisation.
The other development is the participation of Fekita Utoikamanu in the Pacific Islands Forum Reference Group to Address Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), which will make its first country visit to Tonga from 8 to 11 March. The group, which consists of senior representatives of the governments of Kiribati and Solomon Islands, the Tonga Police, the Fiji Womens Crisis Centre and UNWomen, is tasked with supporting governments to address SGBV in the context of their national and international commitments to gender equality and human rights, and with identifying future challenges to the Pacific region in the area of SGBV.
For further information, please contact Linda Petersen, Manager, Human Development Programme, SPC at