The Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership) today welcomed over 100 delegates to share and learn on What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Where We Play, Pray, Learn and Engage Together in the Pacific.

Co-hosted by the Pacific Community (SPC), UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO), and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), and funded primarily by the European Union, Governments of Australia and New Zealand and UN Women, the Summit includes practitioners, researchers, policymakers, activists, and community members working in prevention from across the Pacific.

Present are delegates from countries part of Pacific Partnership has programming, including the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea (including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville), Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

The global pandemic of COVID-19 had hampered regional and national in-person dialogues and convenings. This has impacted our ability to listen, reflect, share, and strategise on the ground-breaking work we have been doing in our countries and regionally to prevent violence against women and girls.

“As a region, the Pacific has one of the highest recorded rates of violence against women and girls globally; with 2 out of 3 women who have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Violence against women and girls takes a profound and long-term toll on women’s health and well-being, on their families and communities and on a nation’s development. Global evidence confirms that violence against women is ultimately preventable within years, not lifetimes, if an evidence-based, whole of population, whole of government and inclusive approach is advanced,” said Mereseini Rakuita, Principal Strategic Lead – Gender at SPC.

– Mereseini Rakuita, Principal Strategic Lead – Gender at SPC.

According to Dr Filimon Manoni, Deputy Secretary General of PIF, “The Summit takes place at an opportune time, a time where at the regional level gender equality priorities are being shaped by consultations for the PLGED revitalisation. The 2050 Strategy articulates the vision of our Leaders for a safe, secure, and prosperous region. It outlines strategic pathways and the thematic areas that will frame and guide development for our Pacific people. Gender equality and social inclusion is a key element of that. We view the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration and the 2050 Strategy as key guiding documents for reducing violence against women and girls and achieving gender equality.”

Honourable Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, Samoa’s Prime Minister shares these sentiments.

“I urge all Pacific Island leaders to make prevention of violence a priority. We need to stop the violence before it even starts, and we can achieve this if we work together, beginning from a common understanding of the root cause of violence, and common principles and values to steer our path,” said.

Ground-breaking work to end violence against women and girls has been ongoing in the Pacific for decades, notably led by the women’s rights movement and civil society. From the establishment of the region’s crisis centers and the Pacific Women’s Network Against Violence Against Women in the 1980s and 1990s, innovative and homegrown approach to prevent violence against women and girls have influenced and impacted families, communities, and societies across the Pacific.

“This work is not new,” said Sonia Rastogi, Officer-In-Charge, UN Women Fiji MCO. “Pioneer women’s activists are being joined by newer partners from diverse fields, including the education, faith, and sports sectors, alongside governments and other stakeholders in efforts to prevent violence. The increasing number of new actors in the ending violence against women and girls field brings new opportunities, and the need to ensure that all actors are working from a common framework and principles.”

The movement against violence against women in Fiji, in the Pacific and at the time across the world started to put our issues on the table, said Shamima Ali, Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, and Chair of the Pacific Women’s Network Against Violence Against Women.

“To fundamentally change a world that accepted women as second-class citizens and to save our lives. Over the next 5 days delegates will discuss strategies and ways to change these attitudes and these views. In their conversations, I emphasise the importance of acknowledging work that has already been done in the region and to build upon what we already know and what is already working. not reinvent the wheel”.

– Shamima Ali, Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, and Chair of the Pacific Women’s Network Against Violence Against Women.

“We are really excited about Pacific Prevention Summit. We will be hearing not just from the partners working within the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls but also other actors. We’d like to learn from them to understand what is working in other parts of the world, other parts of the Pacific, other programmes outside of the Pacific Partnership and how can we then inform the work moving forward. It’s also an opportunity to show other governments in the region that this is important work,” said Miles Young, SPC Human Rights and Social Development – Director.

The Pacific Prevention Summit follows a long journey in the region to address violence against women and girls. Culminating over five days, the learning event will explore what is working to stop violence before it starts as well as identify gaps and emergent areas where we must focus our efforts. In a shifting landscape of climate crisis, socio-economic changes, backlash on women’s rights and increased influence of digital technology, the Summit aims to strengthen our resolve and approach on this issue while underscoring the need for investment in primary prevention efforts if we are to see any reach change for future generations.