Spotlight Initiative launches in Vanuatu

Prime Minister Bob Loughman launched the United Nations and European Union (EU) supported Spotlight Initiative Vanuatu Country Programme Monday.

The Initiative is a multi-year partnership focused on strengthening efforts to end violence against women and girls and by symbolically shining a spotlight on barriers that hinder women and girls from development.

Working in partnership with key institutions and diverse partners, the Spotlight Initiative in Vanuatu will focus its work 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.

While launching the Spotlight Initiative Prime Minister Loughman 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.”

Connecting remotely to the meeting, the Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific and to Vanuatu, Sujiro Seam, said, “To eliminate violence against women and girls in Vanuatu, the Spotlight Initiative is an unprecendented 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, Bob Loughman.”

With a global seed funding commitment of €500 million from the EU, the Spotlight Initiative represents an unprecedented global effort to invest in gender equality as a precondition and driver for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Vanuatu continues to have the highest prevalence rates of violence against women and girls globally with 60% of ni-Vanuatu women aged 15-49 years having experienced physical and/or sexual violence. 

The prevalence of sexual abuse against girls under the age of 15 years (almost 30%) is also one of the highest in the world. For more than one in four women in Vanuatu (28%), their first sexual experience is forced.

In his address to partners and invited guests, the United Nations 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. ”

During the launch, a panel discussion took place that included government and civil society representatives. Panelists spoke about their work and the challenges when addressing violence against women and girls. There was a collective agreement that all stakeholders, from the UN, EU, government, chiefs, women, men, girls and boys, need to be involved, and behaviours and mindsets need to be changed to forbid any form of violence.

Just over 57,000 women, girls, men and boys will directly benefit and about 331,000 women, girls, men and boys will indirectly benefit from this Initiative.

The Spotlight Initiative provides an opportunity for a multi-sector, coordinated and holistic approach to addressing violence against women and girls working through multiple stakeholders including the UN, government, service providers, church and civil society. It will also be aligned with the work done by the Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Community on gender issues particularly domestic violence and intimate partner violence.

Photo supplied