16 Sep 2020

Access to safe houses key for victims of violence in Fiji: govt

6:40 am on 16 September 2020

Fiji's government says it's working to ensure victims of gender-based violence have access to safe houses amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mereseini Vuniwaqa

Mereseini Vuniwaqa Photo: Twitter/ @fijirepublic

The Minister for Women Mereseini Vuniwaqa says the ministry has registered more than 1,500 cases of violence against women this year - an increase of more than 50 percent from last year.

Addressing delegates at a workshop on guidelines for safe-houses in Suva on Tuesday, Ms Vuniwaqa said safe-houses provide hope to victims of violence.

And she says making these facilities widely available is a priority.

"Shelters are a critical component of a holistic response to survivors," Meresini Vuniwaqa said.

"Shelters provide a form of secure accommodation for survivors providing essential aspects of protection, services empowerment and resources which enable women who have experienced abuse and their children to recover from violence to build self-esteem to regain a self-determined and independent life," she said.

Abigail Erikson

Abigail Erikson Photo: Abigail Erikson

Shelter organisations from across the country are attending the workshop which the minister said aimed to put together guidelines and standards to support women and children during the pandemic.

Earlier, the United Nations Women programme specialist in the Pacific, Abigail Erikson, said she was hopeful the workshop would address the issue of violence against women and girls in the region.

"One is by continuing to talk about it and look at how we can work together to solve the problem and to ensure that those who do experience violence are able to get a shelter that is safe and accessible," Abigail Erikson said.

The two-day workshop will also address operational aspects of shelters and the minimum standards of care, Erikson said.