Mrs. Anette Nial, a mother from Fresh Wota thanking VCC for the support to single mothers and widows

Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC) distributed 70 food, hygiene and sanitation kits to single mothers and widows aged in their 20s-90s in Freshwota 1-6 on Thursday, May 19 to help deal with the impacts of COVID-19.

It was an emotional handover with some of the single mothers, widows and chief in tears as this was the first time that VCC on behalf of the churches was able to provide this support to the Freshwota community.

The recipients were selected through a transparent process, organized by women leaders in Freshwota.

The kits included a 20kg bag of rice, container of breakfast crackers, toilet paper, sanitisers, masks, soap, tea towels, washing bucket and VCC brochures on prevention of domestic violence and the Family Protection Act. The VCC responded to this need as they had heard reports of how hard it was for these women to afford food, let alone masks and sanitizer during the pandemic.

“One of the main issues during the pandemic is that we do not have enough money to buy food,” said a single mother at the handing over ceremony.

“Vanuatu Christian Council is the first organisation that has helped us during COVID and is the only institution that has helped us to put food on the table for our families. This support has been the light that has shone down on us and we are so thankful as we did not expect so much.”

COVID-19 has impacted everyone in the community. Border closures and lockdowns have disrupted daily life, families have lost incomes and tensions have increased in households over finances and lack of food. Widows and single mothers are one of the most at risk groups and their families have suffered due to the shut-down of small businesses such as 20 vatu which these women rely on to feed their families.

“Thank you to the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls programme for the funding that translates to tangible things that will benefit single mothers and widows,” Pastor Shem Tema, the Executive Officer of the VCC said in his remarks.

“In a strong society, single mothers and widows contribute to make this society successful. When we go to church we see equal numbers of men and women, and many of these women are single mothers and widows.

“When we empower women, we empower communities to rise and be strengthened. We need to empower them with resources, including those that meet their physical and emotional needs, keeping them safe from violence and discrimination. The effectiveness of a community is also dependent on the recognition and support of social services providers to assist different groups and provide support according to their needs.”

New Zealand High Commissioner Nicola Simmonds said it is important to look out for those who are vulnerable in the communities.

“I applaud the work of VCC, through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls, to support single mothers and widow,” she said.

“I am impressed to see that the support provided to the Programme has transformed and impacted so many lives.”

This work is implemented by the VCC and is supported by the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership). The Pacific Partnership is funded primarily by the European Union, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, and UN Women, and is led by the Pacific Community (SPC), UN Women and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

VCC has received another list of names and will be distributing more kits in coming weeks.