The WHO 2021 report on global prevalence of women experiencing Violence in their lifetimes shows Oceania leads the world in VAW stats. Worldwide the prevalence is 1 in 3- but in Melanesia, Violence affects one in every two women, and young girls are especially vulnerable (image, UNICEF)
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor
WHO Panel on “New Prevalence Estimates on Violence Against Women”
Monday 15 March 2021
Warm greetings from the Pacific.
I thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts on criticality of data in the prevention of gender-based violence.
Violence against women and girls is a global issue. The Pacific has some of the highest rates of physical and sexual violence against women and girls – sadly, it is twice the global average – and it is an issue that our region takes very seriously.
Global evidence reflects that almost 1 in 4 young women (15 – 24 years) who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties. This is not just any kind of violence but one that is inflicted purely on the basis of gender – to control and dominate women and girls. It is an epidemic and it is intergenerational in nature.
Indeed, violence against women and girls is often embedded, even if unintentionally, in practices perpetuated by social norms in our region including, for instance, sorcery-related grievous bodily harm and murder, as well as ‘bride or dowry price’ violence.
Key to addressing these challenges in our Pacific societies is the availability of credible, verifiable and relevant data sets that will support the development of policies designed to address the root of this issue.
So what have we progressed to date in the Pacific region?
13 of the 18 countries have conducted and published violence prevalence studies, using the WHO or Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) methodology. This data has been instrumental in providing a basis for policy makers and leaders to make policy and legislative decision to address, mitigate and prevent violence against women and girls.
The 13 prevalence studies confirm that lifetime prevalence rates of physical and/or sexual violence in all Pacific countries are above the global average and driven by different causes of violence requiring specific and tailored responses.
Our Pacific Leaders remain committed to realising gender equality and ending violence against women and girls as articulated through the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration. Through this political commitment, we will continue to provide a package of essential services for women and girls who are survivors of violence. and work towards implementing legislation to protect women from violence and also, to impose appropriate penalties for perpetrators of violence.
Disappointingly, despite all this, progress to reduce the statistics continues to be slow. We as a global community are failing to end violence against women and girls.
So what can we do? Preventing violence against women and girls is possible not only in our lifetime but within a few years if an evidenced-based, gender-transformative, ‘whole-of’ approach is taken.
Interventions for prevention need to include action at the individual, community and structural levels. They must serve to challenge and shift harmful social norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls.
I am pleased that the Pacific region has put in place regional workplans to address this issue at a whole-of-society level, through a well-integrated multi-agency programme that has seen regional agencies and multilateral agencies working together to support and tailor interventions at the national level.
As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries must begin to reimagine a new world where no women and girl is denied her basic human rights and where every woman and girl can live a life free of violence.
This is not only our wish for every country. This is what we are determined to achieve in the Blue Pacific region.
Thank you. –ENDS
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Imagecredit: UNICEF PNG