15 December 2017
From the High Commissioner's Desk - Reflections on 16 Days of Activism 2017
Thank you for standing with me in resolute opposition to violence against women.
On International Human Rights Day, I was honoured that Prime Minister Hon Rick Houenipwela, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Hon Manasseh Sogavare, Ministers, High Commissioners and Ambassadors, permanent secretaries, development partners, business, media and sports leaders, heads of community groups and non-government organisations from across Solomon Island joined me in a public pledge against violence against women.
This pledge was published in the Solomon Star on 10 and 11 December. I encourage you to remember the names on the pledge list as the people who have promised to uphold zero tolerance of violence against women and girls in the home, the workplace and in our communities.
There were many activities over the 16 Days of Activism that reminded us that violence against women and girls is a gross violation of human rights and it is unacceptable anywhere at any time. Australian High Commission staff joined the parades and lit candles to remember those silent voices who have been lost, and for the many survivors of violence who still need our help.
The Australian Government has been a long standing partner to Solomon Islands Government Ministries, Non-Government Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, churches, and even sports groups to prevent violence against women. For women survivors of violence I encourage you to seek shelter, emergency medical treatment, legal support from Family Support Centre, Christian Care Centre, and Seif Ples. Australia is proud to fund these and many other organisations.
On Saturday 9 December I attended the Solomon Islands Women in Business Association (SIWIBA) annual awards and was humbled listening to the testimonies and thanks of women who are economically empowered to put food on the family table and to send their children to school as a result of the help of SIWIBA. One of the young women in her testimony states that she exports her products to Greece, United States and Australia and is currently looking at breaking into the European market. She knows that her economic empowerment will help to strengthen her community and the Solomon Islands economy.
This is a remarkable achievement and I am very proud that Australia is supporting SIWIBA to empower women for another year. Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality and inclusive economic growth. Gender inequality has been found to be a key root of violence against women and girls.
I was impressed by the participation of youth across the 16 Days of Activism. A great crowd attended the Australian supported Young Women’s Parliamentary Group ‘Say it Out Loud’ Film Festival, and Oxfam’s ‘Side by Side’ campaign showcased young famous local musicians taking the stand on ending violence against women and girls. The voices of Solomon Islands youth are the key to an equal future for women and children.
What have we learned from these 16 Days of Activism? I know I can never stay quiet. We must stand up, we must speak out, we must not turn a blind eye to violence against women and girls.