Addressing violence against women

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Sue Langford - Australian High Commissioner

Speech at Ending Violence Against Women Workshop at Tanoa

Thank you for the invitation to say a few words this morning. 

Very pleased this workshop on ending violence against women is in preparation for the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women, which commences with White Ribbon Day on Friday.

This global campaign has brought much needed attention to the issue of gender based violence.  This year, 2016 marks the 25th year of the 16 days of activism.  

Gender violence is now recognised as a serious and widespread problem all over the world including in Australia and here in Samoa.  Pacific Island countries have some of the highest rates of gender violence in the world.  

Globally, more than one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some way.  Violence against women is a significant human rights violation that has a profound impact on its victims and society as a whole. There are also high social and economic costs. 

In 2016, society is generally more open in talking about gender violence. I think you would agree with me that there is still a great deal of stigma attached to the subject.

There are entrenched beliefs in all our countries, cultures and societies.  Some consider cases of gender violence should be settled within the family; that victims are reluctant to report cases – to village councils, or to the police.  And also that women (more often than men) fear reprisal or will be viewed by some as being the cause of the violence.  But attitudes are changing.

We all have a part to play in continuing to raise awareness about gender violence and ensuring the rights for victims. Whether we are teachers, public servants, managers, sector workers or journalists. 

In your case – as journalists – you have (and you know you have) a particularly important role to play.  Why? Because your role as journalists is to report the news, analyse and offer opinions.  You have an audience.  This means you have the potential to influence community attitudes and getting in people’s minds to question and perhaps re-think their beliefs in regard to gender violence.

Australia is committed to supporting the region in eliminating violence against women and girls.  This workshop is but one example of support to Samoa in this area.  I will also give two brief examples of current support we are providing.

First, we are funding, in association with the Ministry of Women, Community & Social Development, an update of Samoa Family Safety Study which was first published in 2007.  This will provide information on the prevalence of domestic violence and what actions can be taken going forward.

Second, addressing gender violence is an important aspect of our support in our Australia Federal Police - Samoa Police Capacity Building Project.  Through this project, Australia has supported new practices in the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) – particularly for managing victims and witnesses.  This has included the co-location of the CID and Domestic Violence Unit (DVU) and the establishment of dedicated victim/witness statement taking rooms. The Police Project has also supported the introduction of a dedicated electronic Case Management System.  This aims to improve investigational capability and reporting across the entire police service. Our Police partnership is committed to supporting White Ribbon and Domestic Violence messaging and awareness in the wider community.

Through this workshop, I hope you have gained practical skills needed to further understand the root causes of gender violence.  I also hope you have been able to get some additional tools for your journalistic toolboxes for producing media content that will ensure women and girls are not being victimised and discriminated against.

I am particularly pleased to see local NGOs and Government bodies who deal with gender issues are here at this workshop.  I think they have an important role to share experiences and collaborate with the media on how best to report these sensitive issues.

Before I conclude I need to highlight that this workshop is funded by the Australian Government through the 10-year Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS).  PACMAS has a system wide approach to media strengthening that addresses the broader role of communication, information and media in governance strengthening and development. 

This week, I ask that we all work together to end violence against women and empower women and girls to speak up and say no to violence. 

To this end, I hope you can be available to join me in the gathering, Zumba session and fun run on Friday morning.  6.30am at the STA Fale.  Wear orange! Thank you and soifua.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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