From where I stand: “ I used my own money to contribute to building violence — free homes”Veronica Tamar Simogun is the founder of the Family for Change Association, which addresses domestic violence in Papua New Guinea. In 2017, Veronica won the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award for the East Asia Pacific region, in recognition of her advocacy for the rights of women and children who are survivors of violence.
As a survivor of domestic violence, I once felt like there was no one to support me during that trying moment. Together with my husband, we operated a family business in Wewak, East Sepik province. The business grew and accumulated profits, which enabled us to acquire assets like land. All of a sudden, my husband married another woman. I left my marital home in town, for the village, where I stayed for eight years. The experience I went through gave me courage to go out there and do something for other women experiencing violence. I have been able to pave way for many survivors of violence to get the services I yearned for at that time when there was no one to support me.
While in the village, I led the women’s ministry at a village church. I also attended a basic welfare course, which covered areas such as life skills, baking, and counselling among others. This gave me an insight into the kind of work I do today.
My desire to build violence-free families and communities for women and girls pushed me to use money from my personal account to fund these activities, until I got some funders. I have received threats and intimidation from the perpetuators of violence, but due to my passion and determination, I have continued to rescue vulnerable women and children from abusive partners and relatives, and connected them to safe homes. Through Family for Change Association, I also reintegrate the survivors of domestic violence into the society. At one time I hid a survivor of violence from the perpetuator for two weeks. I got a protection order to protect the survivor and us the service providers. The perpetrator reported to police, which came at home and harassed my family members including my husband. I was also interrogated about her where-about. I remember my husband telling them that, ‘No woman will ever leave a good, safe and secure home.’ We later repatriated her. Family protection orders were introduced in PNG to improve access to justice and the protection and support for victims of domestic and family violence (DFV).
The association has a programme which creates awareness in schools on the causes of family violence with an aim of influencing the young generation to be supportive partners in violence-free homes.Young girls should know that regardless of the situation, you can be whatever you want to be, if you persevere. Any girl can become what I am today.”
Women and girls, everywhere, must have equal rights and opportunity, and be able to live free of violence and discrimination. Women’s equality and empowerment is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but also integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development. In short, all the SDGs depend on the achievement of Goal 5.
All women need to be able to turn to fair, effective institutions to access justice and essential services. Without these, instability and injustice spread, and discrimination is perpetuated. In both developing and developed countries, however, a variety of institutions continue to fail women and girls, especially through impunity for gender-based violence.