Photo by Spotlight Initiative

Port Vila, VANUATU- The message of the song has concluded a major event in Vanuatu, echoing appreciation of the efforts and the further commitment made by all partners under the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls in the country.

The celebratory event, held on 5 December in Port Vila, saw over 50 participants attend in-person and online, bringing together civil society, government partners, youth activists, technical experts, and representatives of the UN agencies, the European Union, and other development partners.

The event showcased significant transformation and impact achieved in the areas where the Spotlight Initiative has played a pivotal 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 Spotlight Initiative commenced in Vanuatu in 2020 as part of the global initiative to eliminate violence against women and children. It is an initiative of the United Nations and the European Union, with over US$ 4 million contributed toward the project’s implementation.

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

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

“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,” Mrs Ala said.

Civil Society Reference Group Chair Ms Jennifer Kausei echoed the message of the Director General and said, “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.”

“We need to continue to put our voices into action. We must succeed,” Ms Kausei said.

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 Ms Anne Pakoa shared that the Spotlight Initiative 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 Spotlight Initiative, 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 Spotlight Initiative, a flagship collaboration between the United Nations and the European Union, is the world’s most extensive endeavour to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

Mr. Dirk Wagener, United Nations Resident Coordinator to Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, emphasized 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 Spotlight Initiative 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.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE IMPACT

🔆 94 doctors, registered nurses, midwives and nurse aids in 68 health facilities were trained on the clinical management of rape and sexual violence using the sexual and gender 2 based violence (SGBV) standard operating procedure (SOP) developed under the Initiative. As a result of the training, 108 SGBV survivors accessed medical services.

🔆 The Victims Center under the Office of the Public Prosecutor underwent a significant refurbishment to ensure a safe and confidential space for adult and child victims to access forensic medical clinicians and counsellors on site. An estimated 25 persons a month have received the support during 2023.

🔆 As part of the post-cyclon services, three ‘Women and Girls Friendly Spaces’ were created in Tanna Island/Tafea province. Within 3 days of the operation, over 700 women and girls were registered and provided sexual and reproductive health counselling and services by the retired midwives at the Spaces.

🔆 Terms of Reference for Child Protection in Emergency and SOP to guide the child protection response were developed.

🔆 The gender based violence in emergencies SOP for evacuation centres was developed in coordination with the National Disaster Management Office, Department of Women’s Affairs and Vanuatu Women’s Centre. The SOP will be included in the National Evacuation Centre Management Guidelines.

🔆 A total of 375 labour mobility participants and their partners (170 women and 205 men) were trained through ‘Famili i Redi’, a five-day workshop developed in partnership with World Vision Vanuatu and the Department of Labour. 80% of participants have seen a significant positive change in their relationship with their partner; and 68% in their relationship with their children.

🔆 In- and out-of-school Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)/ Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum and modules were developed. Year 11 and Year 12 students received FLE; and 69 youth advocates were trained to roll out the out-of-school FLE modules.

🔆 23 gender-based violence frontline professionals were trained on data systems to monitor response to violence against women and girls (VAWG) and measure the effectiveness of the referral system. Eight experts have been enrolled in the KnowVAWdata Initiative, a series of capacity-building workshops to support and strengthen national capacity to measure VAWG through prevalence studies.

🔆 14 civil society organizations were supported under regional and/or Vanuatu programme to increase their capacity to advocate and influence.

Contact: Jurgita Sereikaite, Programme Coordinator The Spotlight Initiative | jurgita.sereikaite@unwomen.org | Phone: +678 5506426

_____________________________________________________________________________