Home-grown initiatives in the Pacific to address violence against women and girls have better chances of succeeding and bringing about change, than overseas-designed programs that are implemented with good intentions but in the wrong context.
This was a theme of discussions at the eighth meeting of the Pacific Women’s Network Against Violence Against Women in Fiji.
Some 60 women and men from 11 Pacific Island countries representing civil society, government, intergovernmental agencies and donors participated in the biennial meeting at the Warwick Resort near Sigatoka.
Network members agreed that a critical concern for them is that programs to end violence against women and girls must emerge from local women’s human rights groups and be sensitive to the community context.
“Programs that have been home-grown in the Pacific, that have been designed by Pacific people for Pacific contexts, as opposed to cut-and-paste programs that are brought from different regions of the world, are the ones that work,” says Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, the Director of Tonga Women and Children Crisis Centre.
“These initiatives are brought in with good intentions by some donors and international non-governmental organisations, who do not realise that we actually already have best-practice models operating in the Pacific.
“There are some models we would be able to share with the rest of the world that speak to the very experience of leaders in this area such as Shamima Ali from the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) and Merilyn Tahi from the Vanuatu Women’s Centre (VWC).
“This is a real conversation that we’ve had this week and it’s also an opportunity for us to speak our truth about some of these programs that invade our Pacific spaces and often don’t work out.
“When the funding for these programs come to a stop they collapse and we have to pick up the pieces because we are the ones that continue to live in our communities,” Ms Guttenbeil-Likiliki said.
The Pacific Women’s Network Against Violence Against Women was established in 1992 with the FWCC as the secretariat. From 1992 until 2016, a regional meeting has been convened every four years to hear experiences, discuss new approaches, build solidarity and map a way forward.
This is the first meeting being held after members agreed in previous meetings to convene every two years because of the magnitude of the work.
Represented at the meeting are: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
The meeting ended on December 14, 2018.