Innovative Efforts to End Violence Against Women In The Pacific

Date: Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Data from several Pacific Island countries have revealed an epidemic of violence against women and girls in the region, with as many as 69% of women in Samoa experiencing physical or sexual violence in their lifetime by partners and others.

In Kiribati, research revealed that 68% of ever-partnered women reported experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. In Solomon Islands, the same study found that 64% of ever-partnered women had experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner. 

This extremely high rate of violence has alarmed many- and has sparked a series of legislative and policy reforms now underway.

Violence has historically been a taboo subject, not to be spoken of in public, but that is changing as women, men and young people are speaking out against it. Not only is violence a stark violation of a whole range of human rights, but it places a heavy burden on the health, well being and ability to prosper of individuals, societies, and whole nations. 

This fact is becoming increasingly clear in the Pacific, and requires full scale efforts to change course. To assist organizations and governments across the Pacific in developing new and innovative means of transforming attitudes about violence, UN Women established the Pacific Ending Violence against Women Facility Fund.

The Fund provides opportunities for capacity development, networking and learning among funded organizations in the Pacific- responding to the needs of organizations. The Pacific is a region diverse in cultures, languages, religion, histories and social groups. Response and prevention efforts to violence in such a complex and diverse region must be situated within their local context and meet the needs of marginalized groups. 

Using Performing Arts to Highlight Violence against Women in PNG

With shocking levels of brutal violence against women in Papua New Guinea, including torture, sorcery-related killings and frequent gang-rapes of women, dramatic responses are needed.

Seeds Theatre Group, a Papua New Guinea grantee of the Pacific Fund to End Violence against Women, is one of the champions organizing against violence against women. Seeds Theatre Group presents dramatic performances at community level to send clear messages and start discussion and critical thinking about human rights and violence against women in the densely populated communities of Lae District in Morobe Province.

This year, Seeds held 42 performances in public areas, including markets, bus stops and public neighbourhoods, reaching over 5,000 people.

How does the audience react to the performances? “Some feel guilty, others are concerned, and most women learn that there is help out there to protect their basics human rights,” said Willie Doaemo, Technical Director of the group. “Many men who didn’t realize violence against women was a crime punishable by law have spoken up and promised to stop beating their wives,” he added.

On the other hand, the artists themselves have gone through a learning process by reading the drama scripts and carrying out the performances. “Women are seen as inferior in our society, and this thinking has been passed on from generation to generation,” said Teddy Iwara, one of the actors.

Through the gender training, the rehearsals and the awareness performances, I am starting to respect and collaborate with my mother and sisters in our home, and will commit myself with the Seeds Theatre Group to end violence against women in the Lae District and Papua New Guinea,” he added.

Seeds Theatre Group has gained wide attention for their community level work. By using traditional performing arts as a strategy for education, the Seeds Theatre Group utilizes the potential of young unemployed women and men, and at the same time raises awareness on the causes and consequences of domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace and bullying in schools.

You can view a video on their performances which featured on the UN Women Global website; http://www.unwomen.org/2012/02/using-performing-arts-to-end-violence-against-women-in-papua-new-guinea/
Changing the Lives of Marginalized Women in Fiji

Rainbow Women’s Network

They are another grantee of the Pacific Fund, and is a support network for marginalised lesbians, bi-sexual women and female sex workers in Fiji. The network organises workshops for its members to enable them to overcome the various issues they are faced with, including violence and widespread stigma. 

The Rainbow Women’s Network provides support to its members by advocating, coordinating, and securing services for health, housing, education, legal assistance, employment and finance.

“It’s quite hard to find groups I can identify with, but thankfully two years ago, I became a member of the Rainbow Women’s Network (RWN). The group has given me the space to talk about not only issues affecting my profession but also the risks involved, which my colleagues and I have been able to do openly without fear, discrimination or ridicule. To find an environment and support network like RWN has really changed my life,” says Ms K, a Suva-based sex worker who has faced discrimination many times from the community in her hometown. Recognizing the links between HIV and violence against women, this group is able to support members with knowledge and practical information to stay safe.

Future Directions

Drawing on lessons learned from four years of support to organizations through the Pacific Fund and with support from Australia, UN Women has expanded its support to organizations through this facility with increased funding opportunities and intensified, specialized technical assistance on both prevention and response services. The facility is supporting organizations to improve their ability to monitor their progress and identify what works to address violence in their context, to better inform similar organizations across the Pacific.  

UN Women is now developing a comprehensive strategy for supporting governments to implement laws and policies on ending violence against women in this region, to meet the rising demand for specialized assistance from governments, development partners, and civil society organizations.

 

(For further information of the UN Women programmes and the Pacific Fund please contact the UN Women Communications Analyst Mrs Sainiana Radrodro on sainiana.radrodro@unwomen.org.)