To commemorate Children’s Day on July 24th 2019, the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) and Sista will be launching an essay competition for secondary students, year 7 and above. The essay competition will align with MoET’s gender equality policies and planning while supporting Sista’s goal to inspire young people to think critically about gender equality.
The proposed essay question is: How would you address violence against women and girls on public transport? Answers must be 500 words or less, and the winner of the most meaningful essay response will receive 20 000 VUV cash from the National Bank of Vanuatu.
The issue of violence against women and girls on public transport has been a major concern in Vanuatu. In recent years local women organizations have used National Women’s Day to advocate for women’s safety at night time. Findings from the DFAT funded Gel Pawa program, which was implemented at two schools in Port Vila, indicated that one of the issues raised by the girls was their fear of catching public transport. They did not like to travel alone and did not feel safe catching public transport at night.
This year the Public Land Transport Authority took a progressive step through their social media page to stand up against violence. They warned bus drivers that the sexual harassment of women was unacceptable and demanded a stop to it. This was after a series of women reported being held against their own will on public transport, with some even jumping out of buses to escape assault.
When a woman is a victim of violence on public transport, it is quite common for her to be blamed. Questions are raised if she was travelling alone, or if the incident occurred at night, or if she was drunk or if she was wearing clothing to ‘provoke’ the attack. Authorities have often made statements in the media that have encouraged women not to travel alone, especially at night, and if they did, to let people know of their whereabouts by noting down number plates. Although well intentioned, this kind of messaging can be harmful as it polices women’s behaviour rather than men. Instead of authorities telling men not to rape, they tell women how not to get raped.
Although the conversation is slowly shifting in the direction of women and what they face while using public transport, there are still countless accounts of violence against women and the feeling of being unsafe and uncomfortable on public transport. Warning public transport drivers and passengers that sexual assault is wrong is not enough: we must find better solutions so we can protect our women and girls from facing this injustice.
Reflection for students
The essay competition is an opportunity for secondary students from year 7 and above to think critically about gender equality. We encourage you to think outside the box and be bold with your response! How do you wish violence against women and girls on public transport would be addressed? What steps would you take and who you need to talk to? Here are a prompt questions for you to consider as you develop your essay. Think big!
- Is it safe for women to travel alone on public transport? Why/Why not?
- What is the most common form of violence that she would experience on public transport? And who is most likely to be the perpetrator?
- What can a woman do to prevent violence on public transport? What can a man do to prevent violence on public transport? Do they have to take different steps? Who has a heavier burden to protect themselves and is it fair?
- What do the police say to the public when a woman is a victim of violence on public transport?
- Who is the message for? Are they policing women’s behaviour or men’s behaviour?
- What does the media (TV, newspaper, radio) say when a woman is a victim of violence on public transport?
- What do people on social media say?
- Do you think it’s fair to tell women to not travel alone and to not travel at night? Does it restrict her freedom of movement?
- How do you think it affects a woman’s life by being cautious of taking public transport? Does it affect her job? Her education?
- What should a woman do if she is a victim of violence on public transport?
- What institute is in charge of the public transport system? Do they have a referral system?
- What kind of training do public transport drivers undertake? Are there are any certifications they need to take to become public transport drivers?
- How many public transport drivers are there? Are there any female public transport drivers?
- Do you think women would feel safer with female drivers? Why/why not?
How to enter the competition
The essay competition will be launched on Children’s Day on July 24th 2019 and responses must be submitted by Friday 23rd August. Competition is open to secondary students year 7 and above. The winner of the most meaningful essay response will receive 20 000 VUV cash from NBV.
Answers must be 500 words or less and can be written in hard or soft copy. If written in soft copy, answers can be sent by email to MoET’s Gender Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org and to Sista’s editor at email@example.com. If written in hard copy, answers must be sent to the Principle Education Officer of the student’s province.
Provincial Principle Education Contact Information
Torba Province Principle Education Officer
PO Box 13
Sanma Province Principle Education Officer
PO Box 250
Shefa Provincial Principle Education Officer
Port Vila ,Efate
Tafea Province Principle Education Officer
PO Box 25
Malampa Province Principle Education Officer
PO Box 49
Penama Provincial Principle Education Officer
John Wilkins Tari
PO Box 15