16 days of activism against gender based violence: We can do more
25 November – 10 December 2019
Violence against women and girls continues to be one of the major public health and human rights problems in the Pacific and around the world. This issue is rooted in societal systems that uphold women’s unequal status in society. It was in this vein that, twelve years ago, the Pacific Community supported national prevalence studies in Kiribati, Samoa and Solomon Islands on violence against women, using the methodology and protocols developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Together with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and respective national governments, we sought to estimate prevalence of violence against women, identify country specific causes, risk factors and consequences of domestic violence to enable the development of appropriate policies and programmes for response and intervention.
The findings of the surveys were startling. 2 in 3, or 64 percent, of ever-partnered women in Solomon Islands, aged 15 – 49 reported experiencing physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner. Sexual violence was more common than physical violence although we found out that there was also significant overlap between the two – meaning, most women who reported physical violence by an intimate partner also experienced sexual partner violence. In Kiribati, 68 percent of 2 in 3 women between the ages of 15 – 49 years who had ever entered into a relationship, reported experiencing physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner. Since then many more national studies have been undertaken, which have only confirmed the same unfortunate trends.
As we celebrate International day of ending violence against women and mark the 16 Days of Activism to end gender based violence, I am keenly aware of the efforts made towards eliminating violence against women across our region. Enormous research and programming, data collection and analysis, policy and legislative review and changes, the expansive work of response and prevention programming undertaken by civil society and faith based organisations, the commitments and pledges made by our country and organisational leaders, and the multitude of pledges made by our Pacific men to support this campaign have all made an impact. But this is not enough and more effort is needed.
It is not enough because this year alone in Fiji – 7 women lost their lives due to domestic violence. It is not enough because just 4 years ago, the Pacific Community (SPC) tragically lost one of our own to domestic violence. It is not enough because we continue to read media stories of women and girls being raped, beaten and harassed on a daily basis. It is not enough because across the Pacific, the very institutions that should be upholding human rights principles and the protection of women, continue to marginalise women, make excuses for and protect perpetrators of violence. And the sad truth is that many people are still indifferent to the problem and still think that violence against women is a personal and private matter.
But we will as a community continue to fight. We will continue to seek partnerships and champion platforms that will support and enable the end to this societal problem. t We will continue to march, to advocate and to bring the stories of women and girls up to light in as many forums as we can in the Pacific Community. As we strive to implement our own corporate policies on domestic violence and child protection we will also step up our programmatic work on gender equality and social inclusion and human rights – expanding our partnerships and take our message to local communities, traditional and national decision making structures, faith based organisations, regional forums and international platforms.
Vinaka vaka levu
Dr Audrey Aumua
Deputy Director General, SPC
16 days of activism against violence against women
The 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence is a global campaign that commences on 25 November - the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women - and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day. SPC supports this global campaign and stands united with other Pacific civil society organisations and our partners to end violence against women. Every day, for 16 days, SPC will be posting on social media facts about gender based violence using statistics from prevalence studies focusing on sexual violence, in keeping with this year’s global theme “Orange the World, Generation Equality Stands Against Rape!”
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