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Violence Against Women: Solomon Islands Robyn Edwards.

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Presentation on theme: "Violence Against Women: Solomon Islands Robyn Edwards."— Presentation transcript:

1 Violence Against Women: Solomon Islands Robyn Edwards

2 Solomon greetings Welkam, gudfela aftenun evriwan Mi hapi tumas for stori stori tugeta tude Thank yu tumas for yufela everiwan kam Living and working in Solomon Islands, Honiara & Gizo My presentation examines the geography, dual economy, Melanesian culture, politics and gender relations, to consider the question of violence against women in SI.

3 Where is Solomon Islands?

4 Solomon’s Geography 996 islands and atolls (more than 300 inhabited) Three main towns, Honiara (capital, Guadalcanal), Gizo (Western Province), Auki (Malaita) Population around 600,000 (mainly Melanesian) 85% of the population live in rural areas and villages Impact of geography on women and VAW (Rarumana, Outer Malaita Islands, Family Protection Bill)

5 Coconut – green gold

6 The Dual Economy women as workers Subsistence economy and cash economy Coconut floating in the sea, half in water, half above water Women’s economic livelihoods and women’s empowerment (post MDG, SDG) Women’s Savings Clubs & Gizo Women in Business Story of Ruth Women work very hard, they do a lot more than raise many children (in Gizo may get up before the sun to chop firewood, cook fish & chips, sell at market all day, mind children & grandchildren, cook for family, collect water in dry season, wash clothes for family)

7 Women and men’s activities (field work Rarumana) TIME/DATEACTIVITY MONMENWOMENYOUTH 5:30-6:00SleepingCookingSleeping 6:00-8:00 Morning prayer 8:00-9:00 BreakfastMake breakfastBreakfast 9:00-12:00 Gardening Cooking/Washing 12:00- 4:00 Rest/ smoking Clean up, mind small children Sport/activities 4:00-6:00 FishingCookingSwimming 6:00-8:00 Dinner 8:00-10:00FRIDAYPrayer/sleeping Liu

8 Women’s Savings Club, Gizo

9 Supporting women’s empowerment at the village level

10 SI Family Health and Safety Study, 2009, Secretariat Pacific Community 64% of women aged , who have ever been in a relationship, reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner; that’s 2 in 3 Solomon Islander women The study found majority of women experience severe violence such as punching with a closed fist, kicking, being burnt or having a weapon used against them Women’s high level of acceptance of violence as a ‘normal’ part of married life Melanesian culture, status of women and bride price

11 Violence against Women in SI: ‘normal’ Of the women interviewed who had experienced partner violence, 73% (nearly three quarters) believed a man was justified in beating his wife under some circumstances, for example if she has been unfaithful, if the husband suspects she has been unfaithful, if the wife disobeys him, if the housework is not completed to his satisfaction, if she refuses to have sex with him or she asks him whether he has girlfriends (SPC, 2009 p73). These are all situations where women believe ‘a man has good reason to beat his wife’. ‘Women are expected to be obedient, faithful, perform household duties, defer to their husband on decision-making and to bear children. When women are perceived as not living up to these gendered expectations then violence often occurs’. (Pione Boso, Ministry for Women, 2011, SIDT VAW workshop)

12 2 in 3: Young women’s futures?

13 SI National Policy on Eliminating Violence Against Women, 2010 Key messages Zero tolerance of violence Recognition of women’s rights (right to be safe at home) Sharing responsibility for elimination of violence against women & children Achieving gender equality

14 SI Family Protection Act Passed in 2014, yet to be implemented by the newly elected government Aims of Act are very ambitious: the safety and protection of persons who experience or witness domestic violence; provide programs for victims to assist their recovery; facilitate the issue and enforcement of police protection orders to stop domestic violence; increased sentences for perpetrators convicted of domestic violence offences.

15 Solomon Islands National Elections November 2014

16 The reality: men, politics and corruption

17 Women in Parliament The country context of Melanesian culture: men are the ‘natural leaders’ and people in authority Results of 2014 National Election: In the 50 seat National Parliament, 49 men and one woman were elected. 28 women stood for election SI became independent in 1978, previously they were a British colony. Since independence, there have only been 3 women elected to parliament. My neighbour and her reasons for voting for an unpopular candidate Young Women’s Parliamentary Group, Temporary Special Measures (CEDAW) and generational change.

18 Community development and prevention of VAW Public awareness and advocacy - one of the strategies within the national policy - was the major goal of the Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) project which I led for 12 months, guided and supported by the skilful Solomon Islander Director, Jennifer Wate. Given the fact that 85% of Solomon Islanders live a subsistence life in small rural villages scattered over hundreds of islands in the South Pacific ocean, the great bulk of the population has never heard of the national policy and are completely unaware of its important message: zero tolerance. For most Solomon Islanders, VAW is normal and acceptable. SIDT, an indigenous organisation which believes the village is the heart of the nation, wanted to bring the messages written in the national policy to the grass-roots level, through storytelling, theatre, community awareness and advocacy. Primary prevention must be at the centre of any country program to reduce gender-based violence. The geography of the SI, the acceptability and ‘normality’ of gender based violence, and its massive prevalence all present a rationale for primary prevention approaches. 2 in 3 women; you can’t provide safe houses for 2/3 of the female population, even if they wanted to leave their partner, which in most cases they do not. 300 inhabited islands, many are remote; no police posts to protect women.

19 Sef hom for mami, hapi hom for pikinini, gud hom for everiwan

20 SIDT’s Community Theatre Group Tour of Villages

21 Women as Peacemakers and Leaders during the Ethnic Tension Women were leaders in their communities during and after the SI ethnic tensions of 1998 – As reported in women’s submission to the SI Truth and Reconciliation Commission ‘Stori Blong Mifala Olketa Mere’ (Stories belonging to all our women) ‘Women proved themselves as peace-makers, heads of households, counsellors and leaders…the overall impression is one of women as champions of peace (p1)’. During the six year period of civil unrest, fought predominantly between Guadalcanal and Malaita militias, SI women approached the bunkers negotiating with the militants to lay down their weapons.

22 Missionaries arrive early 1900s Influence of the Christian Church: 95% of population Christian In the villages the church is the focal point for the community Churches run health clinics, kindergartens and schools Impact on gender relations and violence against women: women must ‘submit’ to the man

23 Australia in the Pacific Region Blackbirding Australia’s Aid Budget Australia’s connection with Pacific region: address growing inequality (link to gender inequality) Provide active support and funds to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, post MDGs) in Pacific region.

24 Blackbirding – Australia’s secret shame

25 The Australian Aid Budget – more shame ‘Biggest aid cuts ever produce our least generous aid budget ever’ – 2015/16 $1 billion (20%) cut from aid budget (ANU Development Policy Centre) Impact on work of NGOs Need for this conference to make strong representation to government and opposition to restore the aid budget to previous levels Gender equality and women’s empowerment in Pacific region to be key goals of Australian aid, linked to reducing violence against women.

26 Conclusions In any serious and sustained effort to reduce violence against women, a central component must be supporting local women’s initiatives and women’s empowerment at the village level. This will be more powerful and sustainable than imposing and transplanting a gender based violence program from the Canberra bureaucracy into the Pacific region. The other component must be primary prevention approaches involving both men and women leaders at the village level, churches, schools, civil society and government.

27 SDGs: Address global inequality

28 Contact details Thank yu tumas and lukim yu I hope you have learned a bit about the Solomon Islands today, at least you will know where it is, which my local Bondi post office did not know Contact details: Robyn Edwards Mobile:


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