OPENING STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF SAMOA – HON. FIAME NAOMI MATAAFA AT THE PACIFIC PREVENTION SUMMIT INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL NADI FIJI MONDAY 24 APRIL AT 9.15 (Fiji time)
Representatives of Pacific Governments Your Excellencies – the Heads of Delegations for the European Union, the Government of Australia, and the Government of New Zealand.
Australia’s Gender Equality Ambassador, Stephanie Copus Campbell Heads and representatives of CSOs
Development colleagues Members of the clergy Representatives of the media Distinguished guests present in the room and online.
Talofa lava to all of you joining in by Zoom as well as those present in person including members of the regional media
I would have liked to have been in the room with all of you on this occasion; nevertheless, I am happy to extend my congratulations to everyone who is part of the Summit. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the 5 days of learning and discussions.
The current status of violence against women and girls in the Pacific is a concern for all of countries in the Blue Pacific. The current global statistic is 1 in 3 but the Pacific is 2 in 3, which makes the Pacific one of the regions with the highest levels of violence against women and girls in the world.
Even my country Samoa has a statistic that tells us that 46% of the number of women surveyed had reported experience of physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
I wish to underscore that Samoa has zero tolerance on violence against women and girls and that such practices are against our culture.
It is important that both service provision and prevention efforts are maintained as they are considered imperatives to end violence against women and girls.
In our experiences; survivors of violence against women and girls in the country have access to services through both the national health system and the non-government service providers.
Led by the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, in partnership with many other agencies, the Inter-agency Essential Services Guide for Responding to Cases of Gender Based Violence and Child Protection was developed and launched.
The IESG is a survivor-centred approach that aligns with the Samoan Government’s commitments under international conventions and complements national laws and policies.
The Guide ensures that the support services are adaptable to support all women and children – from a survivor of intimate partner violence, to a child survivor of sexual assault.
More needs to be done to support all survivors, in all their diversity and that we must continue to be committed to supporting them in their times of need.
We must also highlight the importance of prevention.
The provision of services alone is not going to solve the problem of violence against women and children – we need to go to the heart of the problem which is gender inequality. We need to identify and focus on the solutions that stop violence before it starts. Prevention efforts are crucial to change attitudes and in turn behaviour; Preventing violence is long-term work that requires commitment and persistent engagement; I stand together with other Pacific Island Leaders in calling for more concerted prevention efforts across the Pacific.
In Samoa, we have already started this at different levels. For example, among other key interventions, we are working in communities through a first of its kind Talanoa Toolkit for village-based advocates against family violence developed by the Office of the Ombudsman.
These can be adapted and used in any community to enhance awareness on family violence prevention in districts, villages, churches, schools, and families. We are working mainly in schools, in faith-based organisations, in sports and in many other spaces in our society.
And today it is a pleasure for me to share that Samoa is finalising its own National Prevention Framework on ending violence against women and girls in Samoa. We have taken up the challenge nationwide to end violence against women and girls and recognise and advocate that it has no place in our society.
In this connection I urge all Pacific Island leaders to make prevention of violence a priority.
We need to stop the violence before it even starts, and we can achieve this if we work together, beginning from a common understanding of the root cause of violence, and common principles and values to steer our path.
Stopping the violence before it starts is everyone’s responsibility.
We note Fiji’s progress in the about to be launched Fiji National Action to Prevent Violence Against All Women and Girls, and how they have used a ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of country’ approach.
These among other examples, demonstrate that we can find the answers, and remedial solutions to this problem.
In conclusion, this week’s Summit highlights the work that has been ongoing for decades in this area – I must commend the women’s movement in the region that started this work close to 40 years ago. It is vital that we all work together, as leaders of own countries, with the women’s movements, broader CSOs, faith-based organisations, sports organisations, places of learning, workplaces and traditional spaces to make the Pacific a safe place for all women and girls.
Let me once again Congratulate the hosts of the Summit – UN Women, SPC and PIFS, and wish all the delegates the best for constructive dialogue and taking forward the recommendations.