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Pacific Talanoa: Use men and communities

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Update: 6:42PM WORKING with men and entire communities to end violence against women is gaining some success, two advocates said at a Pacific Talanoa today.

Tura Lewai, a Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC) male advocate for women's human rights, told the mostly-activist audience that men needed to acknowledge the privilege they were born with as a first step.

He was speaking at a talanoa organised by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to bring together agencies working in gender-based violence across the Pacific.

Mr Lewai said men were both the problem and part of the solution.

"We need to accept we are the problem, we are the perpetrators. Only then can we learn what it means to be a man," he said.

"We need to step back and see the privileges we get from society, from the church, from institutions."

Recognised as a leading member of the male advocacy network established by the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre several years ago and now present in several Pacific countries, Mr Lewai said no man was born evil but the problem of gender inequality had aided in the socialisation process which often led to violence.

"As men, it is an ongoing process to unlearn and deconstruct the aspects of our behaviour that condones and promotes violence.

"It's a process whereby you are deconstructing and redefining what it means to be a 'man' on a daily basis. We can change, we must change."

His colleague Merelyn Tahi, from the Vanuatu Women's Centre who started off her contribution to the talanoa by praising Shamima Ali, the founder and executive director of the FWCC, said male advocacy had worked for her country too.

However, she also promoted the use of communities against violence and described how an awareness of legislation had enabled her organisation to push for changes that resulted in improvements in Vanuatu.

"I would like to say for Vanuatu, I appreciate the work that has been done by the leaders from 2012 to have this gender equality declaration: it helps with people like me who are advocating and lobbying (for related policies and legislation)," Ms Tahi said.

"Raising awareness is a big element in our work and I'm happy to say that I think we've made Vanuatu talk about violence. Many of us in our homes refuse to talk about domestic violence so how can we stop it because if we cannot stop it in our homes, we cannot stop it in our communities."

The talanoa was supported by the UN Women Multi-Country Office (MCO) in Fiji.

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