Henry Puna, Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum
for the November 25, 2021 (16 Days campaign)
November 25 has long been a day of reckoning for the aspirational, inclusive vision statements of all organisations across the world. November 25, white ribbon day, begins our 16 days of global solidarity to end all forms of gender-based violence.
It is especially a reckoning for our Blue Pacific Continent. Our PIF leaders’ vision is for a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity.
Yet, Pacific women and girls are amongst the most vulnerable worldwide. The statistics tell us that at least once during their lives, two out of every three women and girls across our Blue Pacific will experience some form of violence, often by their loved ones, and in their own homes, where they should be safe from harm.
As Pacific peoples, we often celebrate our binding strength and respect for cultural and spiritual life. Cultural and religious practice work best when they provide a safety net of values ensuring we all matter, we all have value, and we all look out for one another. Whatever our cultural traditions and beliefs, these must never put perpetrators of abuse above the law, nor stop those in need from accessing their rights.
We know that during the COVID19 pandemic, a spike in cases reported from lockdown and restrictions has driven the impacts of COVID19 even deeper for those already experiencing gender-based violence. We know the cost of the pandemic to our economies and livelihoods because we have also seen the billions in lost economic productivity education, lives, from the scourge that is gender-based violence. We also know that civilian unrest and insecurity in our communities increases the risk of sexual and physical violence to all women and girls.
The global 16 days campaign continues to sound the alarm on one of the most pervasive human rights issues facing humanity. Like the crisis of climate, the climate of GBV is of our own making, with massive, intergenerational impacts for years to come.
But like climate change, we can address the damage.
Our Leaders continue to declare that we must end gender-based violence, and the laws and policies to ensure this are in place. A 2012 regional high-level declaration on ending gender inequality is being revitalised to ensure it is fit for purpose.
Our Pacific partnership on ending GBV continues to collaborate across the region to work smarter for stronger impacts to address the root causes of gender violence.
And our Civil society stakeholders and activists, partnering across the region, are making change, transforming communities, working with governments, one initiative at a time.
We must embrace Pacific solutions and own our part in creating a better, safer, and more secure future for women and girls in all their diversity. In our homes, communities and in our Blue Pacific continent.
A free, healthy, and productive Blue Pacific future depends on inclusion, empowerment, and respect for all.
The 16 Days campaign provides a timely reminder of that call. —ENDS
Image credit: UNWomen