Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls in the Pacific – From Research to Implementation: Leaders Speak Out!

Remarks to the UN 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women side event

Speech by Penny Williams, Australia's Global Ambassador for Women, E&OE

United Nations, New York

8 March 2013

I am delighted to be participating in this CSW event on International Women's Day to discuss the crucial issue of how we, as a global community, can end violence against women.

I was privileged to spend White Ribbon Day also known as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Solomon Islands last November. I witnessed Solomon Islands parliamentarians speaking out in parliament that day with public oath never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

And last year at the Pacific Islands Forum, leaders spoke out with great resolve through the Pacific Leaders' Gender Equality Declaration.

I congratulate Pacific nations on last year's historic declaration.

They acknowledged that legislative representation for women in the Pacific is among the lowest in the world, that violence against women and girls is unacceptably high and economic opportunities for women are limited.

And they specifically agreed to enact and implement legislation regarding sexual and gender-based violence to protect women from violence and impose appropriate penalties for perpetrators of violence.

Pacific leaders have a vital role in championing positive change for women in the region.

Australia is pleased to be supporting the efforts of Pacific Island men and women to improve women's economic and leadership opportunities and to reduce violence against women through the work of the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative – a major new program of $320 million over 10 years.

This initiative will work to increase women's participation in leadership and political roles, improve economic opportunities for women through better access to finance and markets, and improve their safety through prevention of violence and access to justice.

Australia is committed to increasing the international evidence base on violence against women through both our domestic and international work.

This is key to maximising the effectiveness of interventions to prevent and respond to violence against women.

A core element of this is research on the prevalence and forms of violence against women.

We are pleased to be working with a range of partners, including national governments, regional organisations, civil society groups, and UNFPA to undertake national prevalence studies.

With Australian support, these studies have been completed for Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tonga and Fiji.

Studies for the Cook Islands, Palau, FSM, Marshall Islands, and Nauru are underway.

Each of these surveys is using the World Health Organisation methodology from their multi-country study.

However, rather than the original methodology which involved surveying in an urban and a rural location – each of the Pacific studies has had a nationally representative sample. This takes the data and analysis further.

The surveys are producing robust data that is informing activities at a country level.

And because the data produced will be comparable with that of other countries, the surveys will also contribute to the international evidence base on violence against women.

I am sure you will hear further from His Excellency Ambassador Collin Beck about the work that is being done in Solomon Islands. But I think it is worth mentioning the experience of Solomon Islands and Kiribati to show the impact that this kind of evidence can have.

In 2009, the Governments of Kiribati and Solomon Islands both released Family Health and Safety Studies on the prevalence of violence against women.

These national surveys were carried out by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in partnership with the Governments of Solomon Islands and Kiribati, with funding from Australia and the United Nations Population Fund.

The studies generated strong interest across government and civil society in taking action to end violence against women. A key part of the work was to disseminate the results back to communities once the surveys had been completed.

The data was striking and validated anecdotal evidence on the prevalence rates of violence against women.

Using this evidence base, the Governments of both Solomon Islands and Kiribati have adopted national policies and action plans to address violence against women.

This year's CSW priority theme, the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, is particularly important to me and I know that even though significant progress has been made around the world, there is still much to be done in Australia, in the Pacific and globally.

I am encouraged that so many representatives from the Pacific were able to come to New York for CSW.

As the rest of this session will underline, Pacific experiences in finding ways to prevent and respond to violence against women are a vital contribution to international discussions on this issue.

We must all work together to deliver women their human right to live free from violence and the fear of violence. This type of cooperation across regional partners is powerfully underpinning programs in the Pacific. The Pacific Leader's Gender Equality Declaration and the activity which is flowing from it is an important model for global efforts to stop violence against women and girls.

Thank you.