A project piloted in four different Pacific nations across 152 schools could provide a solution to reducing violence against women and promoting human rights in the region.
The Pacific has some of the highest rates of violence against women recorded in the world – twice the global average with up to two in every three Pacific women impacted by gender-based violence.
Along with high rates of violence, women and girls in the Pacific region experience constant and continual inequalities including low levels of participation in decision making, limited economic opportunities, and restricted access to critical services and rights.
The Pacific Community’s (SPC)’s Social Citizenship Education (SCE) program as part of the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls has just come back from implementing a ground breaking project in Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Vanuatu.
The information collected from this implementation has showed results which could ultimately lead to decreasing gender based violence.
The Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific Sujiro Seam said evidence showed that school-based programs if implemented correctly, had profound impacts when it came to promoting attitudes, norms and behaviours which are gender-equal and non-violent.
“Young people are a priority of the European Union’s social vision. Youth policy arises from the recognition that young people are an important resource to society, who can be mobilised to achieve higher societal goals,” he said.
The program which adds culture, folklore, myths, legends and faith to pass the message is a long term approach.
Up to 68 per cent of Pacific women have reported experiencing physical or sexual violence by a partner in their lifetime, in countries where prevalence studies have been undertaken.
SPC’s Deputy Director General (science and capability) Dr Paula Vivili said social citizenship emphasised those social rights and obligations necessary to be part of, and enjoy equal opportunities, benefits and status in a community.
“It refers to active, informed and responsible citizens who know their human rights and responsibilities, celebrate diversity, practice non-discrimination and inclusion, show empathy and are concerned about the welfare of others, and are willing to contribute to the development of the country,” he said.
“We may not see all the results and impacts of the program in our project period or indeed in our lifetimes. However, it is an investment in our Pacific people’s futures and global citizenry.”
The programs are implemented with the Ministry of Education in the respective countries. Fiji will become the fifth nation to implement the program.
According to an AusAid funded study, prevalence of gender based violence is high in the region, and in most countries it is much higher than the global average of 35 per cent.
National research shows rate of lifetime experience is high in Tonga (79 per cent), Samoa (76 per cent), Kiribati (73 per cent), Fiji (72 per cent), Vanuatu (72 per cent) and Solomon Islands (64 per cent).
The global average of intimate partner physical and / or sexual violence for women is 30 per cent. Again, Pacific women report higher levels of violence.
For example, of the 12 countries that have undertaken national research in the Pacific so far, Kiribati (68 per cent), Fiji (64 per cent), Solomon Islands (64 per cent), Vanuatu (60 per cent), and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (51 per cent) have recorded the highest rates of intimate partner physical and / or sexual violence for women. Palau has recorded the lowest, at 25 per cent.