care-in-vanuatuA new journey awaits five young Ni-Vanuatu girls as they pack their bags for the Pacific Girl Regional Meeting which will be held in Suva, Fiji. The meeting will be held on the 12th & 13th of May followed by a stakeholders meeting on issues affecting Pacific adolescent girls.

It’s no secret that young girls in the Pacific are most vulnerable to violence, where in Vanuatu alone, 94% of sexual assaults victims are female under the age of 18. The Pacific Girl Regional Meeting, supported by the Australian Government’s Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women), aims to understand the priority issues of adolescent girls and recommendations on how they can be positively addressed, as identified by adolescent girls.

“We must listen to and amplify the voice of adolescent girls in public discussions and meetings,” says CARE’s Country Director Megan Chisholm. “This is an inspirational group of young girls who are passionate about ending violence and improving the lives of girls in Vanuatu. They have so many insights into the issues affecting young girls in their communities.”

Selected from a pool of applicants, these five girls aged 16-18 will take part in the meeting, discussing issues directly affecting them as adolescent girls and their ideas to overcome these challenges. The meeting’s outcome will help develop the Pacific Girl Plan – a way to invest in creating positive change for adolescent girls in the Pacific.

As a preparation for the meeting, CARE Vanuatu staff facilitated a one day pre-departure workshop. Based on CARE Vanuatu’s longer “Finding Your Voice” workshop, the preparation helped to build the young girl’s leadership skills and confidence in speaking up in group settings. Topics covered include self-esteem, human rights, women’s leadership in Vanuatu, effective communication and public speaking. The girls began by identifying barriers preventing women and girls in Vanuatu from accessing their rights and concluded with practicing communicating and getting their message across.

“After participating in CARE’s programs I feel more confident and capable to speak up and openly discuss issues relating to myself and other young girls in my community,” says Jessica Philimon, a young woman leader for CARE International’s Young Women Leadership Program. “I am very excited and pleased to be part of the forum in Fiji.”

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