|His Excellency Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, says men must take the lead in stopping violence against women. ‘We should encourage our people, especially us men, to respect and honour the important role that women continue to play in fostering development in our families and the nation as a whole.’
Photo: Chris Palethorpe
His Excellency President Tong will take a public stand against violence against women when he presents the preliminary findings of a study on gender-based violence and child abuse in Tarawa on 5 December 2008.
The event is part of the programme of activities in Kiribati to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, which begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, also known as White Ribbon Day, on 25 November.
The Kiribati survey is part of a multi-country study that has involved three Pacific countries. The other countries are Solomon Islands, where a study has been carried out simultaneously with the Kiribati one, and Samoa, where a study was undertaken between 1999 and 2001. The studies will provide reliable information on the extent of violence against women.
The Samoa study was coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) using World Health Organisation (WHO) research protocol. The Kiribati and Solomon Islands studies have been coordinated by SPC with funding from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and UNFPA.
Like the Samoa study, they are based on the WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women, which has been undertaken in over 15 countries around the world. An additional child abuse component designed and funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been included in the current studies.
Both the Kiribati and Solomon Islands governments, and in particular the Kiribati Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs and the Solomon Islands Ministry for Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs, have given their full support and commitment to the studies. Other important stakeholders involved are national statistics offices, churches, non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations.
Preliminary findings of the current studies indicate that rates of violence against women in Kiribati and Solomon Islands are among the highest in the world. ‘The outcome of the regional survey on gender-based violence and child abuse is indeed alarming, and I am deeply concerned that Kiribati ranked [so high],’ says His Excellency President Tong.
The next phase of this work will include disseminating the results widely and, subsequently, identifying interventions that address gender-based violence and child abuse.
These interventions could include training of various stakeholders such as police and health care personnel, says SPC Regional Project Coordinator Mia Rimon. ‘This, in turn, will improve the response to violence against women and the assistance given to victims.
‘Data will also be utilized by the countries to pursue more comprehensive policy and legislation to protect women and children who are affected by violence.’
The final reports for the Kiribati and Solomon Islands studies will be published early next year. Meanwhile, His Excellency President Tong is using the occasion of White Ribbon Day and the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence as an opportunity to present the preliminary findings of the Kiribati study to the public.
In Solomon Islands, the White Ribbon Day commemoration will include a march in the streets of Honiara and a candlelight vigil. Those gathered at the vigil will observe two minutes of silence in memory of victims of violence against women around the world.
The theme for White Ribbon Day this year is Human Rights for Women — Human Rights for All, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
SPC’s Director General Jimmie Rodgers says that in order to uphold human rights governments must ensure that everyone, male and female, enjoys full rights.
He says gender-based violence is a major concern, because violence against women (and children) is probably the most widespread violation of human rights. World-wide, research has shown that one in three women will suffer some form of violence in her lifetime.*
‘Violence against women is a violation of human rights in itself, but it also prevents the attainment of other rights such as the right to food, health, work, education, participation in social and cultural activity, leisure and freedom of movement’, Dr Rodgers says. ‘It is now recognised that domestic violence is a development issue because it devastates individuals, families and communities, and hinders development.’
Despite some progress on this issue over the past decade, the enormity of its scale remains mostly unacknowledged.
*Source: United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/violence_against_women/, accessed 18/11/08.
White Ribbon Day and 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence
White Ribbon Day was initiated by a group of Canadian men in 1991 on the second anniversary of the massacre of 14 women by one man in Montreal. They began the White Ribbon campaign to urge men to speak out against violence against women.
In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and invited governments, international organisations and community organisations to organise activities on that day to raise awareness of the issue. The white ribbon was adopted as the day’s symbol.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign originated in 1991 at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership based at Rutgers University in the USA. The campaign runs from 25 November to 10 December. During this period, activities highlighting the problem of violence against women are organised daily.
Other international days observed during the 16 Days campaign include World AIDS Day (1 December), International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December), International Day of Disabled Persons (3 December) and Human Rights Day (10 December).
For more information please contact Tione Chinula, SPC Human Development Programme Advocacy and Communications Officer, tel: +687 26 01 57 or e-mail
or Mia Rimon, SPC Regional Coordinator, Human Development Programme, tel: +677 25543 or e-mail