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UN Women hope to end domestic violence in Pacific with new toolkit

APJ 2015 -Susan EpkskampToolkit 425tall
The new toolkit produced by UN Women. Image: Archive

A new domestic violence toolkit is underpinned as a human rights approach as a guide to help Pacific nations on policy, community and school levels to address families, reports Asia-Pacific Journalism.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Susan Epskamp

The Pacific’s statistics of domestic violence is among the worst in the world.

To tackle the issue, UN Women has now developed and launched the first Pacific toolkit for community groups, local governments and anyone who wants to take action over the issue.

The toolkit, entitled “How to design projects to end violence against women and girls: a step-by-step guide to taking action”, was launched in Tonga on last month and is the first to be designed specifically with Pacific people in mind.

It was funded by the Australian government, as well as with help from UN Women Aotearoa New Zealand.

UN Women Pacific representative Aleta Miler told Dateline Pacific that the toolkit was a booklet with a narrative that told a story.

“There is an actual story that plays through the booklet of a fictional place and a fictional character, a woman, who is trying to work to end violence in her community,” she says.

“It helps you work out the problem, how you plan a strategy of an intervention. It talks you through how to write a proposal, how to get funding, how to think about planning the implantation and how to go through and actually implement the activities that you are thinking of doing,” says Miller.

Step in right direction
Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, foundation professor of Pacific Studies at AUT, describes domestic violence as a “crucial issue” in the Pacific and believes this toolkit is a step in the right direction for change.

“It captures the main issues of domestic violence and it is all about knowledge building,” says Tagaloatele.

“It is underpinned as a human rights approach as it is a step-by-step guide to help on a policy level, a community level and even a school level to address families.”

Tagaloatele says it is important for women to recognise and identify what abuse is as sometimes it is not only physical.

“This booklet helps to start that journey as it provides key identifiers, lists and examples… It looks like a very valuable resource,” she says.

Tagaloatele hopes that this booklet will open a public debate on the issue and encourage the community to focus on the issue which provides a platform for change.

“Violence perpetrates violence so hopefully it will end this cycle,” she says.

Big problem
Shine is New Zealand’s largest domestic abuse charity. Communications director Holly Carrington says it is clear that domestic violence is a big problem in the Pacific.

Carrington says it is important that everyone has access to the basic but important strategies and procedures when dealing with domestic violence cases.

However, Carrington believes it may be a challenge to write a booklet for a different country.

“It is hard for a different country to write a booklet for another country which has different policies and procedures, as well as cultural differences,” she says.

Anita Harvey, a representative from Amnesty International New Zealand, says domestic violence in the Pacific has been an issue for their organisation for a long time.

To reduce these high figures of domestic abuse, Harvey believes that there needs to be more empowerment of women in the Pacific which will happen through governmental action.

“Empowerment can happen through the creation of legislation that specifically addresses sexual and gender based violence, the enforcement of legislation in [the Pacific] to ensure positive policy initiatives are undertaken, and by repealing laws that discriminate against women.”

High percentages
Reports from the Pacific nations of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati indicate a need for more awareness about domestic violence. In all nation’s reports more than half of the women had reported being in a relationship of violence.

A 2010 study showed in Kiribati, 68 percent of women aged 15-49 reported ever being in a relationship of physical and/or sexual violence.

The study, “Kiribati Family Health and Support Study”, explains that “this high percentage indicates that controlling behaviours are a normalised part of many intimate relationships.

“Women who have experienced intimate partner violence are seven times more likely to have children who are also abused than those who have not experienced partner violence.”

A 1996 study showed that in Samoa over a quarter of the 257 women surveyed had been victims of violence. Of these women, 78 percent said they had experienced domestic violence and 11 percent were victims of sexual violence.

In Fiji, a study spanning from 2010-2011 found that 64 percent of women who have ever been in an intimate relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a husband or intimate partner in their lifetime.

In Tonga, 79 percent of women and girls have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to a 2009 study.

Support questioned
Although the toolkit provides fundamental and basic guidelines to help victims of domestic abuse, Tagaloatele questions the ongoing support from the UN.

“My main question would be, what happens after the booklet? Is there support that UN Women will supply to help community workers after the initial distribution of the toolkit?”

Anita Harvey says the toolkit can be only a part of the answer to preventing domestic violence figures.

“With the political will for change and the necessary funding to implement changes, bringing perpetrators to justice and building on grassroots support for this initiative,” says Harvey.

The 2011 study, “Somebody’s life everybody’s business: National research on Women’s health and life experiences in Fiji, explains: “The complex web of control, intimidation, humiliation and multiple forms of violence needs to be recognised by all service providers who aim to prevent violence and assist women living with violence.”

The key recommendation of the 2009 study, “National Study on Domestic Violence against Women in Tonga”, recommended the reduction of domestic violence cases in Tonga needed to involve a return to upholding the core Tongan values of faka’apa’apa (respect), feveitokai’aki (reciprocity), ‘ofa (love) and loto fakatokilalo (humility).

Susan Epskamp is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism Studies paper at AUT University with a passion for people.