Vanuatu has one of the highest prevalence rates of violence against women and girls globally.
Vanuatu sits in the Pacific Ocean in the middle of Australia and Fiji. It has a population of about 270,000 and according to the World Risk Index 2015, has the highest risk to natural disasters in the world.
Vanuatu also has one of the highest prevalence rates of violence against women and girls globally. Studies have shown that 60% of ni-Vanuatu women aged 15-49 years have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
That rate is further exacerbated when disasters happen. Disasters pose many risks for women and girls, increasing their vulnerability to gender-based violence.
Enter the Spotlight Initiative in Vanuatu which will focus on Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence through all six key pillars - (i) laws and policies (ii) institutions iii) prevention iv) services v) data and vi) civil society/women’s organisations. Under pillar (ii) institutions, the Spotlight Initiative will strengthen protections for women and girls, especially for those who are displaced during disasters. Led by UN Population Fund together with the International Organisation of Migration, Gender and Protection Cluster, UN Children’s Fund and United Nations Development Programme, this will involve the integration of gender based violence in emergencies into national preparedness plans and coordination structures.
On October 26,2020 while launching the Spotlight Initiative in Vanuatu, the Honourable Prime Minister, Bob Loughman Weibur said “Humanitarian emergencies, natural disasters and global pandemics put women and girls at an increased risk of violence. Our experience with compounded disasters including the evolving impact of COVID19 demonstrated that women and girls are at increased risk of violence.”
In his address via video link to invited guests at the launch, Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific and to Vanuatu, HE Sujiro Seam, said, “To eliminate violence against women and girls in Vanuatu, the Spotlight Initiative is an unprecedented investment of 450 million VATU, based on a comprehensive approach, combining regulation, institution, prevention, protection, data collection, and delivered through an innovative partnership led by the United Nations, with the full support from the Government of Vanuatu, represented at the highest possible level of leadership, by the Prime Minister, Hon. Bob Loughman.”
Connecting from Fiji and speaking on behalf of the United Nations, UN Resident Coordinator, Sanaka Samarasinha said “The Spotlight Initiative needs to make a tangible difference in the lives of women and girls over the next two years. We will be accountable for bringing all parts of the UN together to support government and civil society, at all levels from national processes to community dialogues, to changing behaviours.”
At the launch, panellists from civil society and government presented challenges and ways forward while working to eliminate violence against women and girls. One of the panelists, Anne Pakoa, Chief Executive Officer of Vanuatu Human Rights coalition said “Pacific Island governments and leaders need to understand that the violence against women and girls agenda is everybody’s business. They need to make violence against women and girls a priority agenda so by 2030 we should have eradication of all forms of violence against women and girls.”
“We should invite new voices and new actors into the circle and by this I mean traditional leaders, church leaders, chiefs, women leaders, youth. They should be the new voices and new actors into the circle of eliminating violence against women and girls.”
Her message was reiterated by the Honourable Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Hon. Bob Loughman Weibur, when he said “Violence against women and girls is not normal and is unacceptable. The government of Vanuatu is committed to preventing and eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against women, children and vulnerable groups under the National Sustainable Development Plan. We look forward to working closely with all stakeholders to end violence against women and girls.”
The Spotlight Initiative is a pioneering partnership between the United Nations and the European Union to end all forms of violence against women and girls, working with and complimenting the work already underway by our partners to end violence against women and girls.
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women