The Church in the Pacific working to eliminate violence against women and girls

20 March 2013

All islands in the Pacific Ocean affirm that family violence is persistent in their communities but most alarming is the violence against women and girls. And these acts of violence are mostly perpetrated by men; who in most instances are known to the victims.

Women and men from a number of Pacific islands who are members of the Pacific Council of Churches [PCC] attended a one week workshop from the 4th to the 8th February in Suva, Fiji Islands. The workshop was a replication of two workshops held previously that looked at how best Christian Churches in the Pacific Islands can work on Eliminating Gender-Based Violence. In the recent workshop the participants were tasked to produce ‘recommendations’ to the PCC General Assembly [PCCGA] to be held in Honiara from the 3rd to the 10th March, 2013 on the theme to Act Justly: Stop gender-based Violence [GBV].

The recommendations covered a wide range of issues relating to gender-based violence that affects women and girls in the Pacific islands. It is hoped that the PCCGM will endorse the recommendations so that each Island nation will derive from it activities that addresses the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence in all Pacific Islands countries.        

The recommendations are as follows:

ELIMINATING GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE (GBV)

We propose the following two-fold strategy for the elimination of GBV be adopted for implementation through the PCC network.

Strategy 1: Be responsive to incidences of GBV by:

a) Strengthening PCC’s engagement with local organisations working in disability, crisis management, etc. to provide training and capacity building for churches in effective crisis response to people affected by GBV, and to further work in collaboration and partnership with these organisations for follow up and on-going support and training.

b) Raising awareness and advocacy of the situations and realities around GBV within our own church communities and social groups.

Strategy 2: Promote the prevention of GBV:

a) Re-interpret the Bible text in light of all people being created equally in God’s image by:

  • Developing training programmes and events for ministers and laity in church leadership on scriptural interpretations that promote gender equality and non-violence;
  • Including biblical training in gender equality and non-violence in ALL associated theological colleges and seminaries;
  • Developing and implementing school educational curriculum and programs, in partnership with ministries of education, that provide space for students to explore gender equality and non-violence at all levels all school education;
  • Working with young children and youth at Sunday school in promoting gender equality, non-violence and protection;
  • Working with organisations such as SPATS, WEAVERS, PCC, GPP, PTC, Uniting World and correctional services contacts and networks etc., in resourcing training and events that promote the elimination of GBV;
  • Encouraging women and men to take responsibility for changing their own mindsets by learning how to participate in church and life as equal partners.
     

    b) PCC member churches and associated members must re-examine the nature of traditional cultures to identify the strengths and positive aspects of culture that promote equal partnership, peace, love and non-violence by;

  • Recognising that migration from rural to urban areas has dislocated the family unit and increased work responsibilities, while at the same time it has decreased supervision of children, reducing or limiting traditional cultural values;
  • Promoting and reinforcing the positive aspects of culture above in order to strengthen families;
  • Using the Gospels to transform the oppressive practices that perpetuate gender-based violence;
  • Defining ‘culture’ and identifying the “ties that bind” us to culture so that we can understand how to work through culture to eliminate GBV.

 c) Enhance community awareness and development programs that work on the elimination of GBV at a community level by;

  • Identifying allies, advocates and gate keepers and working alongside them in communities; connecting with and working through existing networks of women, men and youth both in churches and in communities on programmes that address GBV;
  • Training male partners and advocates as “living letters” of non-violence,
  • Educating men, in our context, on the current laws and conventions that govern women’s and children’s rights (see Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women: CEDAW and CRC – Convention on the Rights of Children) which includes their responsibility for nurturing. Men must also take responsibility to create awareness in other male communities and groups.
  • Changing our mindsets and moving us from victims/perpetrators to survivors, and then to agents of change. Changing our thoughts, our expectations, our interpretations, our ways and behaviours; it is not God’s Will that we live in, with and through GBV.
  • Changing our language to be encouraging and uplifting, say NO to aggression.  Change our actions in ourselves, in our families, in our churches, in our communities and STAND UP. Every opportunity is an opportunity to work for the elimination of GBV.

d) Use a wide-range of media to promote messages of gender equality, to act justly and to stop gender-based violence by;

  • Building relationships with local media;
  • Targeting events to coincide with significant “days” such as Pacific Day of Prayer, Mother’s Day, International Women’s Day, International Day of the Child, International Day of the Girl Child, International Day for the Elimination of all forms
  • Promoting the positive use of social media and mobile technology with young people to encourage involvement, to equip them with ways of spreading the no-GBV message and to look out for each other;
  • Ensuring incorporation of an Elimination of GBV site within the PCC website to encourage member churches, groups and individuals to share ideas, to access resources for programs and events and to gain support from each other.

Prior to the PCCGA that started on the 4th March, there was be a Women’s Pre Assembly meeting on the 1st March where other Church women and members of the laities that works with CSO in issues of Gender and Violence participated. Their participation is crucial as this is where we drum up the support to have the recommendations endorsed by the full PCCGA.  

 Note: Tagolyn Kabekabe, Anglican Alliance Pacific facilitator, was recommended by PCC to be an observer at the Women’s Pre Assembly meeting on the 1st of March and nominated by the Anglican Church of Melanesia to observe the proceedings of the meeting with two members of the Religious Orders.