Ending violence against women specialists from across the Pacific are meeting in Nadi, Fiji this week to send a strong message: violence against women and girls can, and must be, stopped.
“For the first time UN Women has brought together civil society partners, members of the Pacific women’s rights movement, representatives from government agencies and donors in one place to focus on preventing violence against women and girls,” says UN Women Multi Country Representative, Aleta Miller.
“We all believe violence is not inevitable, it can be prevented and we are conversing about how we can systematically address, reduce and end violence against women and girls with a particular focus on what drives this violence, and how it can be addressed so Pacific women and girls can live lives free from violence.”
More than forty practitioners and experts from across Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and Samoa are taking part in the regional consultation to delve into the elements of prevention. This includes changing attitudes which condone violence, examining the gender inequality which underpins violence against women and girls, the need for women and girls to have self-determination over all aspects of their lives, and how best to engage men and boys in prevention.
Experts from the United States, Australia and Uganda will also present successful methods used in other parts of the world and global research on what works to prevent violence to help inform the consultation.
Fiji Women Crisis Centre Co-ordinator Shamima Ali is adding her voice to the conversation calling for a scale up of prevention programmes that tackle the root cause of violence; inequality between women and men.
“However, this cannot happen without equally prioritising services for survivors. We know when community-based prevention programmes are implemented, there is an increase in demand for services,” says Ms Ali.
Pauline Soaki, Director of Women from the Solomon Islands Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs says the consultation is providing a place for all those partaking to openly converse and share knowledge and experiences with each other.
“We have an opportunity to come away from this unified in how we approach and promote prevention against women and girls so we can increase equality for women and girls not just in the Solomon Islands, but across the Pacific. And we can strengthen new and existing networks to tackle violence in a collaborative way,” says Ms Soaki.
The consultation began on Monday, 12 September and is running until Thursday, 15 September.