Pacific Conference of Churches & Pacific Partnership strengthen efforts to address violence against women and girls across the Pacific

Date: Friday, July 24, 2020

[Joint press release]

Pacific Conference of Churches & Pacific Partnership strengthen efforts to address violence against women and girls across the Pacific. Photo: UN Women & Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Friday 24 July 2020 (Suva, Fiji) – The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) and the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership) reaffirmed their existing partnership and commitment to gender equality and ending violence against women and girls, through the launch of a new programme across 18 countries and territories.

The ‘Just and Safe Pacific Communities of Women and Men’ programme will contribute to the attainment of safe, inclusive and violence free faith communities in the Pacific, by preventing and responding to violence against women and girls, using strategic, collaborative and innovative approaches, through religious leaders and faith communities across the region.

The PCC is supported by the supported by the EUR22.7 million Pacific Partnership programme, funded primarily by the European Union (EUR12.7m) with targeted support from the governments of Australia (EUR6.2m) and New Zealand (EUR3.2m) and cost-sharing with UN Women (EUR 0.6m).

“The Pacific region has some of the highest recorded rates of violence against women and girls globally, with almost 2 out of 3 women who have been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, almost double the global average. Across the Pacific, faith has been identified as a particularly important avenue for social norms change, and of particular importance are faith-based organisations which are central to everyday life. Churches and faith leaders play a uniquely influential role in determining values in the Pacific, and can be a powerful force in re-shaping attitudes, beliefs and behaviours about gender equality and the acceptability of violence against women and girls at the individual and community levels,” said PCC General Secretary Reverend James Bhagwan. 

The PCC - through all its programmes - hopes to build a strong network of regional churches in which all women, children and men are safe and treated with dignity and respect. Through our new ‘Just and Safe Pacific Communities of Women and Men’ programme, PCC, in collaboration with UN Women through the Pacific Partnership, will advance a faith-based approach tailored to Pacific faith culture and context to address violence against women and girls at regional and national levels through our 31 Members Churches and 9 council of Churches. This new programme is part of the PCC’s Strategic Plan of 2020 to 2024, which recognised high rates of gender-based violence and abuse in Christian homes and communities, and for the first time included clear outcomes for religious leaders and faith communities to urgently address high rates of violence against women and girls in the Pacific, using the power of faith and innovative collaborative approaches to address this issue.”

The 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 Pacific Partnership is jointly implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (Forum Secretariat) and UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office.

At the signing ceremony in Suva yesterday, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dr. Filimon Manoni, welcomed the “substantial influence” the Pacific Conference of Churches will bring to the Pacific Partnership.  

“Our experiences during this COVID-19 crisis reminds us of the work ahead of us and that new, innovative and bold partnerships are needed to stop the problem of violence against women and girls,” he said,  adding the convergence between faith and gender equality would help transform social attitudes and norms.

The Deputy Secretary General also said commitments by churches to be more vigilant against gender-based violence with actions including codes of conduct, safe churches and zero tolerance policies, “will bring positive impacts and benefits for the wider Blue Pacific”.

Supporting faith-based approaches to promote gender equitable social norms at individual and community levels is a key focus area for UN Women Fiji MCO, who is implementing one of the three outcomes areas of the Pacific Partnership.

“We are pleased to partner with the Pacific Conference of Churches, through the Pacific Partnership, to address violence against women; acknowledging also that at community level many people turn to their local church community in times of difficulty or distress. Faith and faith-based organisations have a lot of power and influence in our region, and it’s important that we work hand-in-hand in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls,” said UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office Representative Sandra Bernklau. 

Through this project, the PCC will leverage their influence and unique entry points to specifically focus on rolling out a regional faith-based model and approach to stop VAWG at national and regional levels across 18 Pacific Islands. This includes a regional mapping of faith-based responses to violence against women and children, gender equality and child protection; establishing systems for Member Churches to monitor and report on performance of their commitments to EVAWG; development and implementation of a Safe Church Policy (Zero Tolerance of VAWC in Church Communities) and Code of Conduct; development and roll out of a Pacific regional faith-based strategy to EVAWG. 

Critical to this will be strengthening the capacity of PCC and Member Churches to increase scale up of positive practices to stop VAWG, including the roll out of a regional Break the Silence Sunday Campaign to engage regional and national church leadership on the issue and  deliver strong messages to faith communities on the necessity of education, attention and response to this issue. 

This programme is a Pacific regional initiative that will be rolled out in 18 countries including,  Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, American Samoa, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Rotuma, Nauru, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Niue, Vanuatu.

This partnership marks a continuation of work between PCC and the Pacific Partnership through the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. 


Media Contacts:

  • Netani Vakacegu Rika, Development and Communications Manager, Pacific Conference of Churches Ph + 679 3311277 / +679 9990439 Email: netanir@pcc.org.fj 
  • Shazia Usman, Communications and Media Specialist - EVAWG, UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office Ph: +679 330 1178 ext. 121 / +679 9228389 Email: shazia.usman@unwomen.org