A celebratory event, appreciating the efforts and commitment made by all partners under the Spotlight Initiative (SI) to eliminate violence against women and girls in Vanuatu, took place on December 5 at the Holiday Inn Resort in Port Vila.

According to a statement released by SI, over 50 participants attend in-person and online, bringing together civil society, government partners, youth activists, technical experts, and representatives of the United Nations (UN) agencies, the European Union (EU), and other development partners.

The event showcased significant transformation and impact achieved in the areas where the SI has played a key role. The Initiative focused on six mutually reinforcing programming pillars: Laws and Policies, Institutions, Prevention, Services, Data, and Civil Society/Women’s Movement Building.

The SI commenced in Vanuatu in 2020 as part of the global initiative to eliminate violence against women and children. It is an initiative of the UN and the EU, with over US$ 4 million contributed toward the project’s implementation.

Director General (DG) of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Mrs. Cherol Ala, appreciated the role the SI played.

“Through the Spotlight Initiative’s coordination, the Vanuatu Government, civil society, communities, families and individuals together made significant strides to end violence,” Mrs. Ala said.

“The Spotlight Initiative was instrumental to the progress we were able to make, providing technical assistance on key policies and guidelines, directly funding local and grassroots civil society organizations, and supporting our portfolio of prevention programmes.”

Civil Society Reference Group Chair Ms Jennifer Kausei echoed the DG’s message. “We are not working in isolation in this fight against gender-based violence. It is all about partnership which makes the breaking of silence possible, subsequently eliminating violence against women and girls at home and communities,” she said.

“We need to continue to put our voices into action. We must succeed.”

The event featured two engaging panel discussions that explored pivotal aspects essential for further progress towards eradicating gender-based violence. The discussions focused on strategies for redefining gender norms and preventing violence; and survivor-centred approaches to violence, recovery and justice.

Vatu Mauri Consortium Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ms Anne Pakoa shared that the SI helped challenge and break gender norms in difficult areas such as traditional governance structures which are highly male dominated with traditional gender norms.

“We were able to work with male leaders and successfully gained their engagement and support to challenge harmful gender norms which perpetrate violence against women and girls,” said Ms Pakoa.

Vanuatu’s Public Prosecutor, Mr. Josaia Naigulevu, said the publication of the country’s first-ever Survivor-Victims Charter was a landmark achievement under the SI, with the Charter setting out the rights of survivors of crime, and the services they may access within the criminal justice system and other service providers.

“We need to change the narrative on gender-based violence, and this charter is a beacon of hope. It’s our collective resolve to stand with all survivors,” he said.

The SI, a flagship collaboration between the UN and the EU, is the world’s most extensive endeavour to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.Mr. Dirk Wagener, UN Resident Coordinator to Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, emphasised the importance of the systematic and holistic approach to tackle interlinked causes of violence against women and children.

“While this phase concludes, our commitment to building multi-sectoral approaches to prevention must persist. Let us not only celebrate the progress we’ve achieved but also embrace the responsibility to continue our efforts, building a legacy of enduring change,” he said.

The SI is a one-of-its kind platform that holds the power to sustainably end violence against women and girls through a coordinated and holistic response that is greater than the sum of its parts.

In pursuit of a violence-free society that champions gender equality, the Government and citizens of Vanuatu have elevated the progress to new heights through their ongoing commitment and comprehensive approach to eliminate violence against women and girls.