In 2020 Fiji will embark on an historic mission to develop a National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), making it the first Pacific Island Country, and one of the only two countries globally along with Australia, to have an evidence-based approach to preventing violence against women and girls.
“The Government of Fiji recognises its obligation to prevent violence against women and girls. The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation will lead the development of a five-year National Action to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls (2020-2025).
Once developed, Fiji will be one of the only two countries in the world to have a whole of government, inclusive, evidence-based approach to prevent violence against women and girls. Fiji National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls will focus on preventing domestic violence, intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women and girls with an emphasis on stopping violence before it starts.
Data and evidence from Fiji demonstrate that these are the most prevalent or widespread forms of violence against women and girls which urgently need to be addressed,” said Honourable Vuniwaqa.
“Last year alone, ten women in Fiji were killed by their intimate partners. This is unacceptable. As a nation, we have a shared responsibility to recognise, challenge and prevent violent and disrespectful behaviour and attitudes towards women and girls.”
Fiji is facing an epidemic of violence against women and girls in both public and private spaces. It has one of the highest recorded rates of violence against women and girls globally, with almost two out of three (64%) women experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
Given their reach and influence, Honourable Vuniwaqa also challenged the media to show responsibility and greater gender sensitivity when they report on violence against women and girls, saying “because gender inequality is at the core of the problem, gender equality must be at the heart of the solution”.
Minister for Health and Medical Services, Honourable Ifereimi Waqainabete, said “almost all survivors of violence end up on the doorsteps of the health sector even if they do not disclose the violence they have experienced or explicitly seek care for their injuries. Violence against women and girls has health consequences that can be immediate and acute, long-lasting and chronic, and/or fatal – whether from prolonged illness and disability or homicide”.
“To me, at its core, violence against women and girls in all its forms is a manifestation of gender inequality, men and boys’ power and control over women and a failure to recognise the inherent equality and dignity of women and girls. While Fijian women and girls bear the brunt of the violence, the social, economic, physical, and psychological and health costs cut more broadly across our society, ultimately harming everyone,” he further added.
In my view, violence against women should be addressed through awareness and teaching people to value women and girls.
Also speaking at the press conference today, the Minister for Education, Honourable Rosy Akbar shared her personal experience of coming from a family where domestic abuse often took place.
“Evidence also shows that certain groups of women, such as younger women and girls, are at a higher risk of experiencing violence. Family history of violence also significantly increases the risk that girls and boys will experience or perpetuate violence as adults. Men are more likely to become perpetrators if they are beaten during their childhood. Women are more likely to experience violence as an adult if they have also witnessed or experienced violence as a child. This is the cycle of violence that must be broken in our homes and families.”
“Education has a significant role to play in transforming the root causes of violence against women and girls as it is an important mechanism for the social, emotional and psychological development of young people. Schools make ideal environment to challenge some of the harmful social and cultural norms or standards that accept violence towards others,” she said, emphasising the need for strategic interventions including progressive gender sensitive curriculums in schools at all levels.
Assistant Minister for Employment, Productivity, Industrial Relations, Youth and Sports, Honourable Alvick Maharaj, said that amongst other stakeholders and priority areas that can support the prevention of violence and girls, youth and sport is key.
“There is no doubt that the action to stop violence against women and girls in Fiji must be taken now; and it must happen in full force and through every possible avenue. Sport can be one of the most powerful platforms for social change. Sport brings people together across the community and provides the opportunity to involve a diverse range of individuals and groups across the nation.”
He further acknowledged that “we have also been plagued by disturbing allegation and news of sexual violence and harassment by high profile sportsmen”.
All ministers confirmed that the root cause of violence against women and girls is gender inequality and patriarchy, and pledged their ministries’ collective commitment to develop and implement the National Action Plan, with other partners.
The five-year National Action Plan will set out short, medium- and long-term measures to prevent violence against women and girls by challenging its underlying root causes. It will influence social norms, promote community leadership and set a much stronger culture of equal and respectful relationships between men and women.
The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation (MWCPA) plans to complete the development of the National Action Plan by 2020.
UN Women is the primary technical partner to the MWCPA in developing the National Action Plan. UN Women’s technical and financial support is provided through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls.