On Friday 18th October, the Minister of Education and Training (MoET) Jean Pierre Nirua presented prizes to the winner of MoET and Sista’s ‘How would you address violence against women and girls?’ essay competition at the MoET conference room.

Initially there was only one prize of Vt20 000 cash from the National Bank of Vanuatu (NBV), but after receiving a large number of responses from students across Vanuatu in English, French and Bislama, the Department of Women’s Affairs (DWA) offered to provide vouchers from Sharper Image worth a total of Vt40 000.

The winner of the essay competition is Denilson Harry, a Year 13 student from Tebakor College, who won Vt20,000 cash from NBV. Kayleigh Kanas Joshua, in Year 7 at Grace Baptist, and the class of 4°2 of the Lycée Français, JMG Le Clézio both came in a second prize tie, and will receive a Vt15,000 voucher each. The third prize winner is Dylane Anyes Matou, a Year 8 student at Central School, who received a Vt10,000 voucher.

Minister Nirua congratulated the students for taking the initiative to explore the difficult subject and encouraged stakeholders to read the essays to hear the voices of the youth. He noted that the winner of the essay competition was a boy while the runner-ups were all girls and said that it was a testament to show that boys can be champions of gender equality too.

The essay review committee took place on Friday 27th September and comprised of Dawn Reuben, Gender Officer of MoET, a Francophone English teacher and Anglophone English teacher from the Ministry of Education, Johnlyn Regenvanu from Department of Women’s Affairs and Reginald Tabi from Public Land Transport Authority, and CSO representatives comprising of Yasmine Bjornum, Sista and Astrid Kersten, HCDI.

The criteria used to mark the essays were applied from MoET’s secondary school English essay marking criteria format. It was agreed that the format would be simplified and focus on originality of thought and ideas. This methodology ensured an accountable and transparent process to identify the winners and the workshop also provided time among the stakeholders to discuss violence against women and girls on public transport and reflect on policies and planning within each other’s respective workplace.

CEO Reginald Tabi of the Public Land Transport Authority said, “The essay competition and networking with stakeholders was helpful to understand how other departments and ministries can support PLTA to address issues in relation to gender based violence. It was also good to hear what students have to say and that their voices are heard.”

CEO Tabi also said that he identified suggestions from the students’ essays that he felt were helpful but would require legal provisions. This included: encouraging women to be public transport drivers, organizing buses for women only, schools to provide school buses, put CCTV Cameras on strategic locations, provide awareness training on violence against women to drivers, create call centers to report harassment incidents, paint transport in different colors and drivers to have IDs place behind head rests.

To read the winning essays, please visit www.sista.com.vu. Sista would like to thank Ministry of Education and Training for the partnership and the support of National Bank of Vanuatu and Department of Women’s Affairs. A special thank you to Dawn Reuben, Gender Officer of MoET, for her efforts to make this project a success.

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