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Pacific People Advancing Change grantee, the Kiribati Women and Children Support Centre (KWCSC), led a campaign to support communities, women’s groups and NGOs in better understanding the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) reporting process in Kiribati. The aim was to empower these groups to be better equipped to oversee the implementation of the CEDAW at a national level and in a position to report any violations to the Government in the future. This is the first step in establishing a civil society-led Human Rights coalition in the future to complement the government-led task force.
Kiribati has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world. It has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the international legal instrument that requires countries to eliminate discrimination against women and girls in all areas and promotes women's and girls' equal rights. However, the knowledge of Kiribati women’s organisations and other civil society groups on the CEDAW reporting process, and therefore their participation in the process, is limited. Reasons for this include limited coordination between the government and women at the community level; a lack of funding to conduct awareness raising with women's organisations and their members at the institutional and community level; and insufficient knowledge sharing on the topic.
The Kiribati Women and Children Support Centre (KWCSC), a non-government organisation with a specific role in supporting women and children who are survivors of gender-based violence, embarked on a campaign to support women and girls in understanding CEDAW as a platform for ensuring gender equality and protection from the negative consequences of a patriarchal society.
This campaign was part of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Human Rights and Social Development's (HRSD) Pacific People Advancing Change (PPAC) programme, which aims to build advocacy capacity among Pacific Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) engaged with human rights issues, while also advancing those issues by supporting specific campaigns.
CEDAW booklet in Kiribati
After presenting the CEDAW Shadow Report at a closed session with members of the CEDAW committee in Geneva, it was important to the KWCSC team to be able to report back to civil society in Kiribati, the local language.
“The goal of our work is our obligation is to the women and also the NGO sector, so we felt that we should report back to them” said Teretia Tokam, Director of KWCSC. This is when the team came up with the idea of translating the concluding observations of the 2020 CEDAW report into Kiribati.
“So, when we talk to the NGOs, they can see the list of recommendations. We realised we should also share it with the Government. We have shared it with nearly 100 people” she further added.
KWCSC established a translation committee to translate and publish the booklet in Kiribati, and advocate for these recommendations.
A civil society member said, “Thank you KWCSC for translating the CEDAW outcome observation, it is very helpful to understand the significant support of our government to us women in Kiribati”.
Civil society consultation
On 26 July 2022, KWCSC organised a consultation with 60 participants from the NGO sector, community groups and the Ministry of Women, Youth Sports and Social Affairs to raise their awareness of CEDAW, and discuss how communities, women’s groups and NGOs can implement CEDAW. The CEDAW booklet in Kiribati was shared with all participants.
As a result of the consultation, participants increased their awareness of the link between gender-based violence and COVID-19, the CEDAW process referral pathways and the CEDAW concluding observations, and the country’s obligations under the convention. The NGOs agreed to work closely with their communities and members of their groups and to partner with KWCSC to implement and monitor the obligations under CEDAW.
Teretia Tokam explains “Many of the grass root community-based groups are interested in the topic but lack the capacity. For many this was the first time they heard about CEDAW, and the government’s obligations in general to ensure all women in Kiribati are protected. In terms of impact, it’s strengthened more our partnership with the women in the community that we are targeting, meaning that they will participate more with our activities when we do consultations in relation to CEDAW in other areas such as domestic violence and the law. The outcome it’s putting us more in a good position with the communities. “
A first step: ensuring civil society have a collective voice
In Kiribati, the Human Rights task force is coordinated by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Women, Youth Sports and Social Affairs. NGOs are only invited to participate if the ministries consider that there is a specific need for civil society participation. For KWCSC, ensuring civil society has a strong collective voice at the table is key. This consultation was the first step in establishing a Human rights civil society coalition in the future.
According to Teretia, “We identified the need for the establishment of a Human Rights civil society coalition to complement the government-led task force, and the PPAC project enabled us to carry out the crucial groundwork in bringing people together around these issues”.