A consultation on the Multi-Service Delivery Protocol (MSDP) for responding to Gender-based Violence (GBV) against women and girls ended on Thursday this week.

More than 20 partners were involved in the two-day consultation as the government of Vanuatu is taking strides to implement the first strategic area of the National Gender Equality Policy.

The consultation was jointly hosted by United Nations (UN) Women and the Department of Women Affairs and aligns with the ongoing development of the National Policy on Gender Equality, which comprises five distinct strategic areas.

The Acting Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MOJCS), Pacco Siri, officially opened the two-day meeting on the 6th of September.

Mr. Siri expressed his satisfaction in witnessing the dedication of partners and the national government to craft a comprehensive national document addressing the coordination of services for survivors, a vital necessity for victims and survivors of violence.

The Acting DG shared a vision where all family members can reside in secure and safe environments, spanning homes, communities, islands, and the entirety of Vanuatu as a secure nation.

The national consultation on MSDP builds upon earlier provincial consultations conducted in 2019 and 2020. However, the completion of this crucial work was delayed due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of hurricanes in recent years.

According to the MOJCS, Vanuatu’s current focus lies on strategic area 1, which aims to “eliminate discrimination and violence against women and girls”. The MOJCS also stated that within the Pacific region, Vanuatu grapples with one of the highest rates of GBV, with statistics revealing that 60 percent of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical and/or sexual violence during their lifetimes.

“Additionally, 68 percent have encountered emotional violence, and 69 percent have been subject to coercive control by intimate partners.

“The National Sustainable Development Plan 2030 identifies the importance of working together to address gender-based violence under the Society Pillar,” the Ministry reported.

Reports from the Ministry show that during natural disasters the rate of GBV in Vanuatu is very high.