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First for the Pacific: Solomon Islands to Host Regional Directors of Women Learning Exchange

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Honiara, Solomon Islands– The Government of Solomon Islands is hosting Directors of Women from 13 Pacific Islands Countries at a Regional Directors of Women Learning Exchange from 21 – 25 May 2023.

Directors of Women from Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, will converge in Honiara next week to engage in a dialogue and reflection on what works to deliver holistic, survivor-centered and multisector response systems for survivors of gender-based violence in all scenarios, including emergencies, utilising the work of the Solomon Islands Government and its partnerships with other government ministries and civil society organisations who makeup SAFENET, as a case study.

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SAFENET is the Solomon Island’s national multisector gender-based violence service delivery system. Both SAFENET, and the Regional Directors of Women Learning Exchange, is led by the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs. It supported by UN Women through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership), funded primarily by the European Union, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, and UN Women, and is led by the Pacific Community, UN Women and the Pacific Islands Forum.

“It is my Ministry’s immense honour and pleasure to welcome representatives of Pacific Islands Governments to Solomon Islands and share how we as a country have been working together with multisector partners to respond to violence against women and girls in a coordinated manner. The statistics of violence against women and girls in my country is reflective of the region, and there is much to share and learn from each other, on best practices of what is working in terms of essential services,” said Honorable Freda Rangirei, Minister for Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs.

Dr Cedric Alependava, Permanent Secretary, Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs said learning exchanges are essential to showing the importance of ‘centering the safety of women’ in gender-based violence response work. 

“The theme of this Regional Directors of Women Learning Exchange is ‘Centering the safety of women and girls in the Pacific’ and that is at the core of SAFENET’s work – it is survivor-centered – meaning the survivor of violence chooses the service she wants to access, and she is supported every step of the way, and easily connected to multiple services along her journey. We are looking forward to sharing with our fellow colleagues from across the region what this looks like in practice – both at the national level, and at the provincial level.

As one of the founding members of SAFENET, as well as a former coordinator, and a trained nurse who had worked for years in the frontline, Nashly Vozoto, is keen to share his experiences with regional governments.

“SAFENET has come a long way since it first started its efforts to set up a system for survivors to access coordinated multisector gender-based violence services. SAFENET is expanding, which is good, but expansions come with their own challenges. As a large percentage of the population live in rural areas, we are trying to ensure that the same services which urban women in Honiara are accessing, women in remote parts of the country can also access. The model needs to adapt to the provinces in which women are in,” said Vozoto, who is the National Gender-Based Violence Programme Officer with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, and Chairperson – CARECOM

In addition to sharing SAFENET’s journey, the regional cross-learning event will also showcase progress undertaken on enhancing national standards in key areas such as counselling.

“We are pleased to share that we will be awarding certificates of recognition to our newly registered domestic violence counsellors. These counsellors are now registered under the Domestic Violence Registry, part of the Domestic Violence Counselling Guidelines launched in 2020, which is a requirement under the Solomon Islands Family Protection Act of 2014,” said Dr Cedric Alependava.

The Regional Directors of Women Learning Exchange is an outcome of the Regional Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Services Symposium, which was also supported by the Pacific Partnership.

“Australia shares and supports the vision and goal of a safe and violence free Pacific for all women and girls. We are a long-standing partner to the region, as well as to the Government and the people of Solomon Islands, in their efforts to provide quality and accessible gender-based violence services for survivors. We are proud to support this learning exchange and looking forward to the outcome,” said Rod Hilton, Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands.

Part of the learning exchange will also include site visits to two SAFENET service providers in Honiara.

An outcome of the learning exchange is for delegates to collectively identify and agree on opportunities for a community of practice with clear future engagements on a regional level to accelerate improvements in the implementation of national policies, protocols and relevant domestic violence/ending violence against women and girls legislations.

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