Government takes a lead to better support women and girl survivors of domestic violence in Solomon Islands

Date: Monday, April 1, 2019

MEDIA RELEASE

Monday 1 April 2019 (Solomon Islands) – Women and girls who are survivors of sexual and gender-based violence are benefitting from improved access to timely, coordinated and survivor-centred services from government and civil society agencies in Solomon Islands.

This is a result of the Solomon Islands Government’s Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs (MWYCFA) recently launching the SAFENET Guidebook on Standard Operating Procedures for the Multisectoral Response, Referral and Coordination of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (GBV). 

SAFENET is a network of government and non-government organizations and frontline service providers for sexual and GBV victims – commonly referred to as survivors.

“The launching of the Guidebook and its Standard Operating Procedures is an important achievement for SAFENET and the MWYCFA as this is a demonstration of the government’s ongoing commitment in responding to the needs of victims/survivors of gender-based violence,” said the Permanent Secretary for MWYCFA, Dr Cedric Alependava.

‘‘Solomon Islands unfortunately has one of the highest rates of violence against women and girls in the Pacific region, with 64 per cent of women and girls have experienced either physical and or sexual violence from an intimate partner,” Dr Alependava said, referring to the results of the Family Health and Safety Study conducted in 2009 [1].

“The development of the SAFENET Guidebook is a direct response to such high prevalence of gender-based violence in the country and the need for the government to ensure that SAFENET service providers align their service delivery models and approaches to global best practices in order to assist and support survivors and victims of domestic violence in a way that ‘does no harm’ and is survivor-centred,” Dr Alependava said.

The Guidebook was officially launched during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence on 10 December 2018 in Honiara by the Acting Australian High Commissioner, Melissa Stutsel, who thanked SAFENET members and the MWYCFA for taking leadership in the development of the guidebook that will provide essential guidance to frontline line service providers.
The guidebook was developed over several years by the SAFENET members under the leadership of the SI Government, written with extensive technical support from UN Women Fiji MCO, and funded through the global UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women.

The SAFENET network has been funded by the Australian Government since 2017 through the Essential Services Programme (ESP) in Solomon Islands and, from mid-2019, ESP support for SAFENET continues through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls, funded by the European Union and Australian Government with support from UN Women.

The SAFENET network was established to strengthen response, referral and coordination of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) services in the Solomon Islands. Members of the SAFENET network are: Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs (MWYCFA); Ministry of Health and Medical Services; Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF); Public Solicitors Office (PSO); Family Support Center (FSC), Christian Care Center (CCC) and Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association.

Following the launch, there was a refresher workshop conducted by MWYCFA and UN Women for SAFENET members to discuss the key contents of the guidebook including its Standard Operating Procedures; guiding principles and survivor-centred approaches; SAFENET governance systems; minimum standards and data collection requirements.

Some SAFENET members shared how they are reflecting survivor-centred approaches in their services.

Esther Nevenga, GBV focal nurse of White River Clinic said: “I always listened, respected and believed the victim’s story and importantly, allow the survivor to choose her own preferred referral options.”

Jeremiah Akoeasi, Social Welfare Child Protection Officer, said: ‘our role as service providers is only to facilitate and guide the victims/survivors so that they can make their own decisions rather than us dictating what they should do - and in the case of children, decisions should be made on the best interest of the child.”

Sister Ruth from Christian Care Center shared how important it is to respect and listen to the survivor rather than being judgemental.

To coincide with the launch, the national distribution of the SAFENET Guidebook began starting with a week-long consultation from 19–23 November in the Western Province of Gizo. The consultation also focused on the first official draft of the SI Counselling Framework for Domestic Violence - as required by the Family Protection Act and supported by ESP. The Framework will regulate domestic violence-related services to protect the public by allowing access to high-quality gender-based violence counselling. A formalized SAFENET system around the country will enable survivors to access timely, survivor-centred, and coordinated multisectoral services.

The Guidebook launch and Western Province activities were coordinated by the MWYCFA, which leads SAFENET, supported by UN Women.

SAFENET Coordinator with MWYCFA, Juliana Zutu, said it is important to continuously remind the people of Solomon Islands about the importance of ending violence against women and girls (EVAWG) and to better assist those impacted by gender-based violence (GBV).

“It’s about providing a better quality service, while also making sure we improve the way we coordinate across our services – from the initial response to victims/survivors by a police officer or medical officer, to the way a women’s crisis centre or legal officer then provides additional services.”

“By more clearly linking and connecting frontline services, we significantly increase the likelihood of women and girl survivors getting the quality help they need, when they need it,” said Ms Zutu.

“A key part of my role is to ensure that SAFENET members are supported and also held accountable for the type of services they provide and how they deliver services as per the agreed Standard Operating Procedures in our national guidebook.

“SAFENET’s key priority is to ensure safety and protection of victims/survivors by providing timely, quality and coordinated services,” she said.

Ms Zutu added that SAFENET and its Guidebook is a central part of the government’s work with EVAWG policy and legislation approaches, detailed in the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls Policy 2010-2015 and 2016-2020.

UN Women’s Country Programme Coordinator, Alvina Erekali acknowledged the commitment and work of MWYCFA in leading development of the country’s first multi-sectoral Standard Operating Procedures for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Response.

Acting Director of Women in Development Division of MWYCFA, Vaela Ngai, said: “With technical support from UN Women, the Government of Solomon Islands through the MWYCFA has led the development of this key document in collaboration with SAFENET members frontline service provider across health, police, counselling and advocacy, shelter and legal services, helping women and children survivors of gender-based violence.”

“We gratefully acknowledge the significant contribution of all SAFENET stakeholders for their dedication and contribution to improve services for survivors of gender-based violence in Solomon Islands, and donors and development partners for their continuous support,” Ms Ngai said.

 

Media enquiries should be directed to:

Ms Vaela Ngai, Acting Director, WDD, Ministry Of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs: vdevesi@mwycfa.gov.sb

For information on funding and support for SAFENET and ESP in the Solomon Islands: UN Women Solomon Islands, Doris Puiahi doris.puiahi@unwomen.org or Alvina Erekali: alvina.erekali@unwomen.org

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Essential Services Programme (ESP): In Solomon Islands (SI), the government has led the SAFENET network since 2013. Since 2017, the SAFENET network has been supported through the SI Essential Services Programme (ESP), that began as a partnership between UN Women, UNFPA and the SI Government to support existing work already underway to improve access to quality essential services, funded by the Australian Government.

The SI ESP links with the global United Nations Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence (ESP), which is a joint-UN program involving UN Women, UNFPA, WHO and UNDP.

From mid-2019 the ESP, and its support for SAFENET, will continue to operate through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls, funded by the European Union and Australian Government with support from UN Women Fiji MCO, that is also the key implementing agency in partnership with UNFPA. 

Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls: The Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership) brings together governments, civil society organisations, communities and other partners to promote gender equality, prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG), and increase access to quality response services for survivors. The programme will build on the decades of work led in the region by civil society and governments to address this issue.

The EUR 19.5million programme is funded primarily by the European Union (EUR12.7m) with targeted support from the Australian Government (EUR6.2m) and cost-sharing from UN Women (EUR0.6m). It is being jointly coordinated by the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (Forum Secretariat) and UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office.

 


[1] Source: The Family Health and Safety Study conducted in 2009 found that, 64% of women and girls have experienced either physical and or sexual violence from an intimate partner, 37% of women and girls reported being sexually abused before the age of 15 and 38% reported that their first sexual experience was forced.