Suva, Fiji - The UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women and projects partners joined efforts in the first multi-country livestream event on Facebook on 25 November to mobilize the UN system, government partners, civil society and women’s rights organizations to advocate for a world free of violence against women and girls.
The event officially inaugurates the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (GBV). Within the global theme, the UNDP Pacific Office campaign for 2021 is titled “End Violence against Women Now! Respond, Innovate and Leave no One Behind to Orange the World”.
Through the three-day livestream events organized on Facebook between 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and 10 December 2021 (International Human Rights Day), UNDP Pacific Office aims to raise awareness on prevention actions against GBV and the existing response GBV services that are available in the region. As in previous years, the colour orange represents a brighter future, free from violence against women and girls.
According to the latest estimates, nearly one in three women aged 15 years and older, around the world have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, non-partner or both, at least once in their lifetime.
In Pacific island countries, violence against women and girls is among the highest in the world. National research shows high rates of GBV lifetime experience in Tonga (79 percent), Fiji (72 percent), Vanuatu (72 percent) and Solomon Islands (64 percent).
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated all the risk factors for Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), including unemployment and poverty which reinforced many of the root causes such as gender stereotypes and harmful social norms.
There has been a significant increase in reported violence in countries in the Pacific region during COVID-19 lock-downs,” said UN Women’s Fiji Multi-Country Office Representative, Sandra Bernklau during the opening remarks.
In Fiji, there was a recorded 606 percent increase in calls to the national Domestic Violence helpline between February - April 2020. In Tonga, the women’s crisis recorded 54 percent increase in the number of cases coming in during that period. In Samoa, there has been a 150 percent increase in helpline calls in 2020 compared to the same time in 2019.
In her presentation, Ms. Reijeli Mawa, EVAW Desk Officer at the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation in Fiji, provided an overview of available referral mechanism and governments specific actions to prevent GBV during the lockdowns.
“We encourage women and girls to take advantage of the existing GBV prevention and response services such as the REACH buses, coming directly to your communities,” added Thomas Bali, from Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation in Fiji.