From where I stand: “We have to work together to prevent the violence and strengthen peace”

Otimau Mariano, 39, is long separated from her former husband and now cares for her five children and her aging parents. Since joining the Strengthening Peaceful Villages (SPV) community-mobilisation project, Otimau’s life has changed dramatically in a nation impacted by some of the world’s highest rates of intimate partner violence. She is now determined to use her role as Village Activist to help change the lives of others to have safe and peaceful relationships, homes, and villages.

Date: Thursday, September 16, 2021

As told to UN Women/Jacqui Berrell

Otimau Mariano, 39, from Kiribati
Otimau Mariano, 39, from Kiribati. Photo: UN Women/Jacqui Berrell
 

There are so many men using their wife like punching bags, and it’s become normal, even if you stop them, the man will fight back with you, but this project reminds us of what should be normal. Since I joined this project, I have experienced a lot of change within myself. This project has helped me realise I want peace.

This change was a result of the Strengthening Peaceful Villages training. In the training, I learnt about power, and power balance between men and women. I realised about ‘power over’ and that it’s not good. I felt like that was what was happening at home with my family.

[In our family], we now have better communication, and we have more focus in caring for our family, especially my [aging] mum and dad.

Travelling with the other Village Activists on public transport
Travelling with the other Village Activists on public transport. Photo: UN Women/Jacqui Berrell

But I was nervous about being a Village Activist and talking to others in my village about ‘power’, but I was ready because I wanted to speak out and help others get peace in their family too.

[These conversations are] important because we have to work together to prevent violence and strengthen peace in the village.

For me, this project is like a meal - we can bring that meal to the people in the village, but they have to want to taste it and eat it.

That’s what this project brings, and because the Village Activists are in the village, and we are [all] eating the meals and we want others to try the food too.

Domestic violence is very strong in Kiribati today and not everybody will want to hear what the Village Activists say. But some will and that is good.

That is a start.

The Strengthening Peaceful Villages (SPV) community-mobilisation project is led by the Ministry of Women, Youth, Sport and Social Affairs (MWYSSA) in partnership with UN Women through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership) programme. Pacific Partnership is funded primarily by the European Union, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, and UN Women, and led by SPC, UN Women and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. SPV uses the SASA! model from Ugandan-based NGO Raising Voices, adapted to the Kiribati context. Otimau Mariano’s work contributes to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, and SDG 16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies.