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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pacific Women in Business Conference

Pacificregional network on gender-based violence marks 20 years

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NADI, Fiji (12 November 2012) – Twentyyears after a handful of women from
around the
Pacific first gathered in Suvato discuss the problem of sexual and
violence, the sixthquadrennial regional meeting to discuss the issue was
opened in
Nadi today byAustralia's Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, Penny

Organised by the Fiji Women's CrisisCentre, the four-yearly meeting brings
members of the Pacific Women'sNetwork Against Violence Against Women
established in
1992 to better coordinatethe efforts to eliminate sexual and gender-based

This year's regional meeting is aimed atexamining ways of responding to and
preventing violence against women andgirls, as well as how these women and
girls can
access justice.

More than 40 participants from as far asBougainville in Papua New Guinea,
and the
Marshall Islands in the northernPacific are gathered at the Novotel hotel
in Nadi to
discuss the progress madein eliminating sexual and gender-based violence,
the work
being done and whatthe tasks that remain.

Opening the five-day meeting this morning,Ms Williams said: "We're still
talking, because the problem of violenceagainst women is still very much
with us. We
can only hope that one day we haveother, more uplifting reasons to gather.

"But while the problems remain, thesolutions, I believe, are expanding and
momentum," said Ms Williams,Australia's first Global Ambassador for Women
and Girls.

Ms Williams highlighted Australia's effortsto eliminate violence against
women and
girls in the region, as well a newinitiative that commits up to AU$320
(FJ$589m) over 10 years to helpshift entrenched barriers to women's
social, economic
and politicalparticipation across Pacific Island Forum countries.

Called the Pacific Women Shaping PacificDevelopment Initiative, it builds
on the
sustained work of many Pacific womenand organisations to provide much needed
services for women affected byviolence and to advocate for police and service
delivery reform.

Ms Williams said: "The initiativerecognises that issues of political
economic empowerment andviolence are interconnected. Because if we are
serious about
securing humanrights and national security, we must be serious about stopping

"If we are serious about achieving genderequity and the empowerment of
women and
girls, we must be serious aboutstopping violence."

Fiji Women's Crisis Centre CoordinatorShamima Ali recalled that the first
regional meeting on violenceagainst women was organised by FWCC in Suva in
involving women from 15Pacific Islands countries.

"Then there were only two establishedcentres: the FWCC and the Punaga
Tauturu in the
Cook Islands. The network wasestablished then and has endured, and now
there are
nearly 40 programmesaddressing violence against women and girls in the
network," Ms
Ali said.

"When we met in 1992, it was the first timeever Pacific women had met to
this tragic phenomenon – violence againstwomen, rape, child sexual abuse,
and sexual
harassment. Nearly every woman inthat meeting had experienced one or
another form of
violence, some stillsuffering.

"We realised then, after two weeks of talking,discussing, crying and
sharing, just
how big and prevalent this problem was.What was more tragic was the high
levels of
acceptance in our societies of thistorture of women and girls, and the
lack of
response by the state; the use ofreligion and culture to deny women
justice and
justify the violence."

Much has changed in the two decades sincethe first meeting, but much more
remains to
be done, says Ms Ali.

"While we still have high levels ofgender-based violence in our societies,
a lot of
work is being done toeliminate it. And there are new, unexpected voices
being raised
againstviolence against women and girls."

The four-yearly regional meeting reviewsthe situation over the past years and
identifies challenges as well ascelebrates success.

The five-day meeting will address policingand access to justice, ethical
for shelters and other serviceprovisions, working with men to eliminate
violence, as well asinternational campaigns and processes.

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