Between culture and faith: Unpacking the power driving gender-based violence (GBV) in the Pacific
10am Friday 4 December 2020
by the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dr Filimon Manoni
Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
Bula Vinaka from our sunny corner of our beautiful Blue Pacific continent.
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the latest in the Blue Pacific Talanoa Series. These ‘webinars for the people’ are intended to generate discussion and debate, as well as to inform of new approaches to critical issues.
Our Blue Pacific continent is made up of a myriad of cultures, languages, and ethnic groupings. Our region is diverse in many aspects. Each country is unique and different in their own special way.
What is common however is the prevalence of male dominated systems of decision-making, even in countries with matrilineal systems of lineage and inheritance. This state of affairs creates a commonality of gender disadvantage across the region manifested in diverse ways.
The theme of today’s webinar, “Between culture and faith: Unpacking the power driving gender-based violence in the Pacific” is particularly apt. Our region’s rates of violence against women and girls are profoundly disturbing – two out three women will have faced violence at some point in their life – and this only stands to worsen if we do not act immediately and decisively. As a Pacific man, it pains me to hear of the violence that our women and girls are subjected to, some on a daily basis.
With the current COVID-19 crisis, rapid gender assessments show an increase in gender-based violence (and in severity and frequency) due to lockdowns across Pacific countries.
The soon to be launched Pacific Biennial Sustainable Development Report highlights how COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities for our women and girls.
What can we all do?
All of us as citizens and individuals have a critical role to play in shaping the perception of gender roles in the Pacific and to challenge negative attitudes and behaviours. Some of these actions are simple:
Educate yourself and others about gender-based violence. Educating yourself and sharing information with your family and friends about what GBV is, how it happens and, how to prevent it are the first steps to ending GBV.
Protect girls who face additional risks during emergencies. Because of their gender and age, disasters and circumstances such as COVID-19 increase girls’ vulnerability, increasing the risk of rape, abuse and other harmful practices.
Empower girls and young women to speak out. Build their skills and capabilities and encourage them to use available platforms to share their stories and demand better policies and legislation.
Today, we will hear first-hand from those who work in this area. We will also hear of innovative approaches taken to break the barriers that threaten not only women and girls, but the development of the region.
We are all responsible at a community, national and regional level to promote and protect our women and girls in order for them to achieve their full potential. Unlocking this potential is critical for us to collectively achieve our social and economic development objectives through the full and active participation of women in all facets of social, economic and political life.
To effect change, it is crucial that we work together, in equal partnership. This is no time for a siloed approach. Innovative, collaborative approaches from all sectors is what we need to end the scourge of gender-based violence that has tainted our Blue Pacific continent.
As we mark the 16 Days of Activism to end gender-based violence, we are again challenged to take a good look at ourselves, and more importantly to take action. Are we being the change we want to see in our world? Are we making an effort to fashion a world that is safe for our women and children?
On a personal level, I challenge all Pacific men – old and young, from all diverse settings across our Blue Pacific continent and beyond, to be part of the solution. Seek ways to strengthen the capacity of our women and girls, and consider what you can do to address inequality. Do not use our power to tear them down. Do you accept this challenge?