To commemorate Children’s Day on July 24th 2019, the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) and Sista launched an essay competition for secondary students, year 7 and above.
The proposed essay question was: How would you address violence against women and girls on public transport? The winner of the most meaningful essay response recieved 20 000vt cash from the National Bank of Vanuatu. The Department of Women’s Affairs sponsored vouchers from Sharper Image worth 40 000vt for the runner up winners. The prize giving ceremony was held on Friday 18th October 2019 and presented by the Minister of Education and Training (MoET) Jean Pierre Nirua.
The essay competition aligned with the National Gender Policy, MoET’s Inclusive Education policy, Gender Equity in Education policy and Child Safeguarding policy while supporting Sista’s goal to inspire young people to think critically about gender equality.
The winners are:
First prize: Denilson Harry, (Tebakor College)
Second prize: Kayleigh Kanas Joshua (Year 7, Grace Baptist) AND 4°2 of the Lycée Français, JMG Le Clézio (TIE)
Third prize: Dylane Anyes Matou (Year 8, Central School)
By Denilson Harry Tebakor College
Women and girls are the most vulnerable when it comes to all forms of violence within a society. This happens all across the world. Everyday women face some form of sexual violence and it occurs everywhere. This includes public spaces such as the streets, parks, public transportation, schools and workplaces. This violates their human rights to freedom of movement and makes women feel insecure to participate in public life. The sad thing is it remains a largely neglected issue. Therefore this essay seeks to elaborate on how to address violence against women and girls on public transport in Vanuatu. First we will analyze some of the most common forms of violence on public transport and then discuss ways to prevent and address this issue.
Men are often the perpetrators of violence against women and girls. The most common types of abuse on public transport includes offensive gestures, winking, leering looks, hurtful insults, derogatory comments about their body and clothing, unwanted touching, unnecessary leaning or pressing against women/girls, indecent exposure and sexual assault.
Next let’s analyze and discuss some of the ways we can prevent and address violence against women and girls on public transport. This comes under three categories: safe physical environment, prevention and support services, and capacity building.
Fostering a safe physical environment requires developing relevant policies with input from women and girls. It also involves ensuring adequate lighting and clear visibility in and around bus stops, on sidewalks and pathways, and to and from bus stops. There is also a need to install cameras and alarms systems on public transports or around bus stop areas, invest more on security personnel and surveillance, and build more sub police posts on the suburbs and within the communities. We also need to consider women-only buses/reserved seats or more women drivers. We also need to have buses without dark windows and to have the bus registration number and drivers’ name clearly displayed on every bus seat.
Prevention and support services involve designing women friendly transport services. Women who work late at night or in the early morning should have work place designated transport to drop them at their doorstep or closer to their destination. There is also a need to establish a security hotline working around the clock to report incidents of violence through text or call. There is also a need to install local support services to help victims. The Vanuatu National Council of Women, Police, Public Land Transport Authority and other relevant stakeholders should hold campaigns both online and face-to-face to raise awareness and challenge social norms and attitudes and behavior towards violence against women.
Lastly, capacity building involves conducting driver training and getting them certified to operate public transport. Training areas should focus on women’s security and safety issues and gender-sensitive emergency assistance.
To conclude I encourage all people government agencies, development partners, churches, communities, and individual to work together to address and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls to ensure a better peaceful Vanuatu.
SECOND PRIZE (TIE)
By Kayleigh Kanas Joshua (Year 7, Grace Baptist)
In Vanuatu, it is not safe for women to travel alone on public transport because women are often victims of violence such as sexual harassment mostly by male passengers or male bus drivers. Vanuatu is not alone in this dilemma. This is a problem that is faced by other countries around the world, such as Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia and many others.
Recently there have been a number of cases where women have either died or sustained serious injuries as a result of violence in buses, in Port Vila. When this happens similar responses were taken by the police and media by warning and informing the public. The police would run awareness programs and give safety advice, for example, traveling in groups or pairs. The media would write an article about the incident. Although these are helpful it does not address the issue entirely. Women are restricted in their movements and perpetrators are not threatened by any warnings of their behaviour.
Some steps Vanuatu can take to make public transport safe for women and girls are:
- That the Port Vila Land Transport Association (PVLTA) can provide a transport system that services women only. The public transport vehicles can be color coded in a particular color that differentiates it to other public transports so it can be identified easily. This can also include encouraging female bus drivers.
- Having certified bus drivers with appropriate training in intercepting male passengers from harassing females. These drivers can be male and female with some form of identity that can be placed in an area of the transport that can be seen easily by women and girls in the bus stops.
- Having a municipal/security officer contracted by the national police force in each public transport certified fit to service women and girls.
- Having CCTV cameras in the main bus stops and GPS in all public transports. This can be done with the help of NGOs such as ActionAid to set up some form of safe travelling routes for women, as in Zimbabwe.
- Having billboards in public places with contact details and what a woman must do if she is a victim of violence. These billboards can also carry information on sexual harassment so women know what it entails.
- That the PVLTA get a referral system linked with the police and the women centre. This system will warn the police as well as the women centre as soon as a victim contacts them to report any case of violence in a public transport.
- The police, women’s centre and PVLTA should run awareness on signs to look out for in prospective perpetrators so they can be identified.
- The media should play a leading role in informing the public on what to do, what to look out for and contact details.
Unless steps such as these are taken, women and girls are at risk of sexual harassment on public transports in Port Vila. Perpetrators will feel free to keep attacking women because there is no real danger of their behavior. As a young girl, I would like to see a safer Port Vila, and Vanuatu as a whole, for my sisters and girlfriends so we can enjoy our freedom of movement.
SECOND PRIZE (TIE)
The class of 4°2 of the Lycée Français, JMG Le Clézio
Violence against women and girls in Public Transport is a world-wide problem with no perfect, easy solution. After looking at how other countries address this problem, we have tried to find ways that best fit Vanuatu’s profile.
First we had to understand why certain solutions didn’t already exist so we went to the Port Vila Land Transport Association and we talked to both a man and a woman.
Their point of view was really different; the man didn’t think there was an issue with safety nor that bus driving was a job for women. However the woman was a lot more receptive and thought our ideas were really good.
Here is what we came up with:
- Men need to be educated on how certain speech or attitudes can make a woman feel. We think they don’t realize how uncomfortable it can be. A course/conference could be offered to drivers with women testimonies and videos, the simple things to do or not do so women are at ease in their bus/taxi. At the end of the course, drivers would do a test and if they pass it, they get a big round sticker “Lo bus ia mifala i rispektem women” that they can stick on the door of their bus.
- Have a number of buses painted a certain color with women drivers for women whom we can reach by phone.
- Also we thought that bus and taxi drivers must display in the back of their vehicle an information card that includes: full name, age, drivers’ license (to make sure they are registered), number plate, proof of insurance, the hotline phone number and a QRD code. This would allow passengers to file a proper complaint and not get in a bus who doesn’t respect the law.
- The police told us drivers were never penalized because of lack of evidence, so this information card must be made a law and to pursue this action a lobby must be put in place. The QRD code on the information card can be scanned to report the driver or just call the hotline. If the law is approved, they must put in place serious legal sanctions against drivers who misbehave and there must be more awareness to women and girls about their protection under the law. Once the public knows their rights, the police must be supported by the government to be able to act against drivers breaking the law.
- The next obvious solution is to have more of a police presence at night. The police told us that they only had one patrol car. Maybe a less expensive quad could be the solution?
- Violence is increased by substance abuse, which has to be controlled. The police also state that they cannot afford alcohol tests but we found reusable tests on Amazon for less than 4000vt. Also, simple CCTV cameras (2000vt) placed in each bus could be connected to the police station.
After talking to lots of women and their experiences, there seems to be two types of violence: the first one can be addressed through education, by showing the drivers how offensive their attitude can be and the other one needs to be addressed through police enforcement, backed up by laws.
By Dylane Anyes Matou, Year 8, Central School
The capital city of Vanuatu, Port-Vila, has been experiencing increased incidents of violence against women and girls on public transport as reported in media outlets and social media. This essay will discuss how to address violence against women and girls on public transport in Vanuatu, make suggestions and have a conclusion.
Women and girls should feel safe at all times when using public transport at any time as per the Vanuatu Constitution Article 5 which talks about the fundamental rights and freedom of individual: 5.1. (a) life, 5.1. (b) liberty, 5.1.(c) security of the person; 5.1 (d) protection of the law; 5.1 (e) freedom from inhuman treatment; 5.1 (i) freedom of movement.
Although the Constitution, also known as the mama law, have set out clear fundamental rights and duties of individuals, the women and girls of Vanuatu, especially in the urban centers of Luganville and Port Vila, continue to experience different forms of violence. The most common form of violence experienced by women and girls is sexual harassment. According to the definition from the Oxford Learners dictionary, sexual harassment means “comments about sex, physical contact etc., usually happening at work that a person finds annoying and offensive.”
As a woman and student, I should always feel safe and feel protected by the law, have freedom of movement and freedom from inhuman treatment, as this is what’s stated under Vanuatu’s mama law. Sadly this is no longer what we students, particularly us women, have experienced – we have experienced the opposite. Certain men who drive public transport are ignorant or have taken advantage of our constitution, culture, tradition and Christian values by abusing our fundamental rights, duties and responsibilities. As the result, there have been alarming reports on sexual violence towards our students and women.
The heavier burden lies with the victim, her immediate family and community and the Government bears the cost if the perpetrator is found guilty and get sentenced and put into prison. But the poor victim will suffer the consequences for the rest of her life.
I would recommend these actions to be taken by all our responsible institutions:
- More community awareness about our constitution and about the fundamental rights, duties and responsibilities in schools, churches, communities;
- Major campaign on the theme “Your Safety, Our Responsibility, together we will keep our students and women free from sexual violence on public transport.”
- Invest in women to drive public transport;
- Enforce compliance to existing laws;
To conclude, women and girls should always feel safe and protected when using public transport at any time. Women and girls safety should be everyone’s responsibility. By doing so we Vanuatu’s citizens, residents and visitors will continue to uphold our constitution and protect our motto- In God we stand for the social and economic wellbeing and development for our beautiful nation Vanuatu.
Essays have been edited for grammar and punctuation