United Nations Urges Strong Civil Society Engagement in the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence

Mr. Themba Kalua

In a powerful statement delivered at the official opening ceremony of the Spotlight Initiative CSO Knowledge Exchange Forum in Samoa, Mr. Themba Kalua, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau, emphasized the indispensable role of civil society in the ongoing battle against gender-based violence (GBV).

The timing of the event, during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, adds further significance. Mr. Kalua commended Hon. Mulipola Anarosa Ale Molio’o, Minister of the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development. for launching the campaign, highlighting the united force civil society organizations (CSOs) represent in championing such initiatives. He acknowledged the pivotal role played by CSOs and expressed gratitude to the Government for its leadership and the European Union for generous financial support.

The UN Resident Coordinator proceeded to share three reflections with the audience:

1. Celebrating Achievements: Mr. Kalua lauded the unwavering efforts of CSOs in the fight against GBV. Through the Spotlight Initiative, he noted the instrumental role played by these organizations in transformative grassroots initiatives, offering crucial support to survivors, challenging harmful social norms, and fostering new behavioral patterns. The symposium, according to him, provides an opportune moment to collectively celebrate these achievements.

2. Sustaining Gains Beyond Funding: Acknowledging the cyclical nature of project funding, Mr. Kalua encouraged reflection on sustaining gains beyond the Spotlight Initiative. He urged CSOs to explore avenues such as technology leverage for organizing and speaking up against GBV incidents, emphasizing that not all solutions require financial resources.

3. Building Capacities and Unity: Drawing on personal experiences in Papua New Guinea, Mr. Kalua highlighted the critical role of civil society as first responders to GBV incidents. He stressed the need for CSOs to be united, build necessary systems and capacities, and increase investments. He appealed to governments, development partners, and the private sector to provide more support to CSOs.

In concluding his statement, Mr. Kalua reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to support the Government of Samoa in addressing GBV. He emphasized the pivotal role CSOs play in these efforts and encouraged reflections on lessons learned for future improvements. The UN Resident Coordinator congratulated the CSO National Reference Group for organizing the event and reminded all attendees that the fight against GBV is contingent on a robust and vibrant civil society.