Last Friday, close to 75 community leaders came together for the first ever Vanuatu Women’s Peace Table. They joined a select group of 20 countries around the world in a global campaign for the implementation of the UN Security Resolution (UNSR) 1325, which aims to promote women’s representation in key decision-making processes of peace-building and peacekeeping.

The Women’s Peace Table came about as a result of the initiative of Ms. Jenny Ligo, chairwoman of Women against Crime and Corruption (WACC). Ms. Ligo chaired the event and also spoke about the work of WACC, advocating for victims of crime.

The Guest of Honour and Key Speaker for the event was His Excellency, the Chief Justice of Vanuatu, Vincent Lunabek. The Chief Justice presented a stirring, hour long speech on the importance of achieving economic justice for the women of Vanuatu. He presented a brief history of the legislation promoting women’s equality, globally and in Vanuatu, followed by a detailed account of the current situation of women.

The speech was a wonderful testimony to Mr. Lunabek’s deep understanding of the difficult challenges facing Vanuatu’s women and to his office’s growing interest in addressing the problems. It also conveyed the message that the government of Vanuatu is fully committed to making changes, through the Constitution and through international conventions and resolutions. The Chief Justice also engaged in open dialogue, responding to different questions posed by the conference participants, mostly women and some men.

Dr. Astrid Kersten of Human Capacity Development International (HCDI) presented a talk on UN Security Resolution 1325, which is the foundation of the Women’s Peace Table initiative. The resolution was adopted in 2000 and is binding for all UN member states, including Vanuatu. It acknowledges the disproportionate impact of violent conflict on women and aims to promote women’s inclusion in key decision-making process affecting peace-building and peacekeeping.

Along with 7 later resolutions, it forms the Women’s Peace and Security Policy Framework. Dr. Kersten pointed out that it is good to have policy in place, but what is really needed is a plan for action. To date only 25% of countries have a National Action Plan. The report from the Vanuatu Women’s Peace Table will be presented to the government as the start of its action plan.

Other speakers in the panel included Motarilavoa Hilda Lini, whose comments focused on the importance of having women represented in Parliament. Ms. Lini provided a fascinating account of the time when Vanuatu did have women in Parliament and what they were able to accomplish.

Ms. Doreen Leona of ICT for Women and Girls shared a talk on technology and women, explaining both the challenges and opportunities that technology presents. Another highlight of the program was a presentation by 2 Baha’i Youth, Diana John and Faleona Motoutora. Their talk was about Stopping a Culture of Violence and it explained how unity, education, collaboration and community building can put an end to both domestic and social violence.

Dr. Anita Jowitt, Lecturer at USP Law School, rounded off the panel with a very informative talk on human rights. She shared information not only about the law but also about the many problems that women in Vanuatu face in having their rights met and protected, and the importance of involving young people in the movement for change.

In the afternoon session, the conference participants divided into different topic groups and analyzed the major issues and challenges for women in the community, formulating recommendations for action. This is an important step in translating the global objectives of the UNSR 1325 to the community level and begin the work of implementation.

Ileen Boe of the Vanuatu Prayer Network opened the program with a message for peace from the Holy Bible.  Lucy Sandy, WACC’s Vice-Chair provided the closing song and prayer. WACC member Bessy Ligo effectively coordinated the wonderful food and room decorations for the event.

The WACC committee responsible for organizing the program included the WACC Executive Committee Ms. Jenny Ligo, Chair, Ms. Lucy Sandy, Vice Chair, Ms. Manina Packette, Secretary, Monique Stevens, Treasurer, and members Ms., Bessy Ligo and Dr. Astrid Kersten.