Ways to reduce violence against women and girls with disabilities

Date: Monday, August 7, 2017

Pacific — Lessons learnt from a unique Toolkit on Eliminating Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities in Fiji are driving ideas to develop similar approaches in other Pacific countries.

“When we started using our Fiji toolkit back in 2015 we didn’t realise how much it would really help our women and girls,” said Litia Naitanui, Rewa Branch President, Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO), who is a participant at this week’s Pacific Disability Forum’s (PDF) regional dialogue for Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities (EVAWG) in the Pacific.

Litia Naitanui, Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) Rewa Branch President, says the Toolkit on Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities (EVAWG) has been life-changing for some Fijian women. Photo: UN Women/Jacqui Berrell

“One of the women we worked with in Fiji says her life has changed since the implementation of the Toolkit, cause now her family values and respects her like they didn’t before,” said Mrs Naitanui, “and she says she finally realises her own value too.”

“Before, she would cook, clean, help around the home and also hand-knit beautiful skirts and dresses that her family would discard. She was made to feel worthless.”

“But from that time till now, since we used the Toolkit to talk with her and her family about the capacity and potential of women with disabilities, she says her life has changed within her family and within herself.”

“Now she says she understands the important contribution she makes to her family, and has the confidence to start selling her hand-knitted clothes – surprising her family – and she’s saved enough money to buy a sewing machine and now also makes and sells dresses and shirts.”

Almost 50 participants from eight countries are converging in Fiji this week to share their knowledge and ideas about ways to better work together to improve access to services for survivors of violence against women and girls with disabilities at the PDF’s regional dialogue for EVAWG with disabilities.

PDF Co Chair Ms. Nelly Caleb said, “The dialogue provides the platform to strengthen if not start approaches to better understand ways of which we can create an enabling environment that provides accessible services for women and girls with disabilities.”

The dialogue builds on the success of the Toolkit on Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities (EVAWG) in Fiji launched in 2015, and will plan ideas to develop similar country-specific toolkits now being developed for Kiribati and Samoa.

The dialogue event is a first for the region, coordinated by PDF in partnership with the UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO) and with funding from the Australian Government. It is currently being held from 7-9 August 2017 at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi, Fiji.

It brings together disabled people’s organisations (DPO), EVAW service providers and government representatives from 8 Pacific Island Countries (PICs).

Ms. Caleb stressed the need to use the opportunity of the dialogue to share best practices from each country that will guarantee the elimination of violence against women and girls with disabilities.

“Let us, use this opportunity to learn from each other, keeping in mind the sensitivity of the topic, we will provide a “safe space” for honest and progressive discussions to the countless barriers that we women with disabilities face when it comes to gender based violence, “said Ms. Caleb.

UN Women’s Multi-Country Office (MCO) Deputy Representative, Nicolas Burniat, said there is much work to be done to achieve gender equality, access to services and economic empowerment for women and girls with disabilities in the Pacific.

“Too often women and girls in the Pacific who have a disability experience lower economic and social status, experience barriers to being involved in decision making processes, and can be more vulnerable to gender-based violence and harmful or gender-discriminatory practices,” said Mr Burniat.

“This regional dialogue is critical to discuss evidence-based approaches to prevent violence against women and girls (EVAW) with disabilities and best practice strategies to further improve survivors’ access to EVAW services on an equal basis with others,” he said.

Media Contacts:

Simione Bula
Information Officer, Pacific Disability Forum (PDF)
Ph: (+679) 3312008, Mob: (+679) 8912653
Email: : infor@pacificdisability.org

Jacqui Berrell
Communications and Media Specialist, UN Women MCO Fiji
Ph: +679 330 1178 ext 145
Email: jacqui.berrell@unwomen.org