19 Dec 2018

Pacific anti-violence initiative seen as global model

10:01 am on 19 December 2018

Anti-violence campaigners in the Pacific say a programme which uses men as role models is best practice and should be shared with the rest of the world.

domestic violence, abuse

Photo: eakmoto/123RF

At their meeting in Fiji this month, the Pacific Women's Network called for more men to stand up for women's rights.

Surveys show that two-thirds of Pacific women and girls have experienced violence by an intimate partner or family member.

Papua New Guinea has the highest rate of 70 percent, with Solomon Islands and Kiribati not far behind at 68 and 67 percent, respectively.

The Network's Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, of the Tonga Women's Crisis Centre, said despite the rising rates, their male advocacy programme was working.

"I think it's a programme or model that should be shared with the rest of the world because it's home-grown, it was developed by Pacific men and women, and it speaks to our context," Ms Guttenbeil-Likiliki said.

'Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki

Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki Photo: RNZI/Koro Vaka'uta

The programme was started more than ten years ago.

One of the first male advocates, Melki Anton from Papua New Guinea, said the programme was based on very strong principles of human rights.

But he said it had been challenging to change the attitudes of men.

"It's not easy this shift because of the social and cultural norms that exist in our Pacific culture where men are holding on to very strong patriarchal attitudes that is supported by inequalities that you find in the church and religion where as far as male domination is concerned," Mr Anton said.

He said because the programme is home-grown, it has had a better chance of success than overseas-designed initiatives.

"Men have realised their own violence including me when I started in this programme. I may not be physically violent to women, but in the way I speak, in the way I'm in control or intimidate, that can also be included as part of violence."

Women carry wood in the town of Kerema, Papua New Guinea


Another male advocate Tura Lewai from Fiji said advocates around the region had varied backgrounds, but with one common goal.

"There are a lot of privileges that are accorded to us just by being born a man. We work on influencing through our work in our different spaces about ensuring that the voices, that the experiences of women, are heard in all these spaces," Mr Lewai said.

But he said male advocates wanted to stop being labelled as champions.

He said the true champions were the women who were brave enough to flee from a violent situation or partner.

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