Slow progress on Pacific women’s rights: a reminder for me to get to work

Vanuatu is coveted for its peaceful communities and the generous hospitality of its people. It seems a contradiction then that so many of the men in my village and throughout Vanuatu choose to communicate with their families through violence.

Research released by the World Health Organization last year found 68 percent of women in areas of the Pacific reported suffering physical or sexual abuse from their partner

This week yet another woman from my village was found after being beaten all day by her husband. She survived, but who knows if she will survive the next time and how effective chief or police intervention will be or if there will be any intervention at all.

In a culture where gender based violence is the norm, how does one break the cycle? 

I am a part of the Gender and Development Committee of Peace Corps Vanuatu. We are working with women and men around the country to get their insights into how we can work together to break the cycle of violence. We then provide training and materials to volunteers and their counterparts in how to help communities to combat gender based violence.

Read about Carlie Congdon’s work with the chiefs of our island. Her 2-day training last year provided over 20 chiefs with skills in gender based violence prevention and a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of women and men in our communities. After the training chiefs have been more aware of their important role as the enforcer of justice in our communities and have been standing up for women. 

Vanuatu has a long way to go before reaching a place where both men and women can enjoy the right to safety and freedom even in their own homes. Hopefully through trainings and conversations we can start to make a difference and encourage peace within our island families.

The Pacific Islands are experiencing a digital transformation that could have major implications, particularly for democratic governance and potentially for the region’s development. Some of the fastest-growing rates of mobile phone uptake in the world are changing the way Pacific Islanders communicate, learn, engage in political debate, coordinate activities and access services.