“There is no excuse for any form of violence. You are strong, you are powerful. You were born free and equal, you have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety. Nobody has the right to hurt you. The law is the same for everyone, and it must treat you fairly.
“Seek help if you need to, respect yourself and live responsibly, as you are also responsible for every decision you take and every action you make”.
The powerful words were delivered by the Acting Coordinator of the Vanuatu Women’s Centre (VWC), Vola Matas, on November 25 to mark the beginning of 16 days of activism against violence against women and girls in the country and the world.
The 16 days also include International Human Rights Defender’s Day on November 29, International World Aids Day on December 1, International Day of Persons with Disability on December 3, White Ribbon Day on December 6, International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9 and International Human Rights Day on December 10. It was a call for all women and girls as well as men and boys throughout the country and beyond, to stand up for their God- given rights to contribute towards the advancement of their
Communities, islands, Provinces and country. Traditionally on some islands in Vanuatu, a parting advice for a young woman on her wedding day in the presence of the groom’s family would be, “Show respect for your husband and carry out your responsibilities without fail”, then turning to the husband, her uncle would add, “If on the other hand, she does not obey you, please whip her to submit”.
Those days of cruelty when women and girls were used as slaves in the home and or mere tools for male satisfaction should be gone for good.
Today married couples should hand in hand go about their daily lives with joy and determination as they tackle the rising challenges in their families, particularly in the current unpredictable tomorrow of COVID-19.
The message from the Acting Coordinator of VWC is a urgent wakeup call in particular for all women and girls, all women’s organisations, custom chiefs, church leaders, Provincial Councilors and their Provincial Governments and the nation’s relevant mechanisms, to adopt a mentality change towards women and girls and give them the respect and treatment that they all deserve as equal partners in development.
To date the VWC and its branches and networks see more than 5000 clients each year- which includes women, girls and children.
A report from the court shows that in 2019 alone 890 domestic violence cases were filed at the Magistrate Court.
The 2020 Offenders census by the Vanuatu Correctional Services shows that 40% of inmates are convicted for offences against morality compared to 23% in 2018. “And generally, from 2015 to 2019, offences against morality continues to remain high, compared to other offences”, the Acting Coordinator says.
“There is still negative portrayal of women and girls in the social media; including women and girls being victims of cyber bullying.
“In the March 2020 elections, no women were voted into parliament”.
The Acting Coordinator of VWC delivered her address in the presence of the Director General of the Ministry of Justice and Community Services, Dorosday Kenneth, Director of the Department of Women’s Affairs, Rothina Ilo Noka, Director of the National Disaster Management Office, Abraham Nasak, New Zealand High Commissioner, Jonathan Schwass, Australian High Commissioner, Sarah de Zoetes, British High Commissioner, Karen Bell, Secretary General of the Vanuatu Christian Council, Pastor Shem Temar, Technical Specialist Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, Nimarta Khuman, Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls, UN Women Vanuatu Field Office. Country Director of OXFAM, Anita Samana and Country Director- Care International Vanuatu, Meghan Chisholm, other Distinguished Guests and Partner Agencies and the general public.
Also present was the new Chief Executive Officer of Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) Dr. Willie Tokon. Dr. Tokon has given his assurance that the new TIV Awareness programs, going forward, will focus a lot on Domestic Violence, including violence against women and girls, and COVID-19.