Oxfam calls for Australia’s aid program to address violence epidemic in the Pacific

Media Releases article written on the 02 Jun 2016

Affecting one in three women globally, violence against women and girls is an epidemic in need of urgent and sustained action, according to a new report by Oxfam Australia.

The report, Survivors Of Violence Become Leaders of Change: Lessons from Women in the Pacific, shows the incidence of violence against women in Pacific countries is some of the highest in the world.

Oxfam Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke, who has just returned from the launch of the report in the Solomon Islands, said in some Pacific nations, two out of every three women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their partner.

“The violence against women and girls throughout the Pacific, in countries such as the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu, is at horrifying levels,” Dr Szoke said. “Sexual harassment and sexual assault – including rape, murder and torture – are a part of everyday life for many women.”

Dr Szoke said Oxfam had been working with local partners in the Pacific for more than seven years, and had experienced first-hand the massive demand for support for survivors as well as women under imminent threat of violence and murder, including those linked to sorcery accusations.

“This extreme violence is diminishing women and girls’ ability to gain an education, freely earn a living, participate in public life, and live a life free of fear,” she said.

Dr Szoke said Australia, as a global citizen and donor of aid within the Asia-Pacific region, needed to take stronger and more consistent action.

While the Australian Government has reiterated its commitment to addressing and ending violence against women and girls in the Asia-Pacific and continued much needed funding through the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program, gender equality funding has been hit by broad cuts to Australian aid, and this area is not receiving adequate investment.

“If the Australian Government intends to uphold its commitment to the empowerment of women and girls, it must restore the aid budget and increase transparency in gender equality investment,” Dr Szoke said. “Since coming to office the Coalition Government has cut more than $11.3 billion to current and future aid.

“The cuts to Australian aid threaten the progress that has been made in combating violence against women; programs that support women are already suffering as a result.”

Dr Szoke said Oxfam’s work in the Pacific to end violence against women and girls had achieved significant changes that had reduced the prevalence of violence. In particular, Oxfam had supported programs led by local communities and women — many themselves survivors of violence — who were driving ground-breaking change.

“Now is the time to ensure we build together on these important foundations of change through sustained, increased aid investment in gender equality,” she said.

For interviews, please contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Bianca Wordley on 0407 799 365 or biancaw@oxfam.org.au