The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) has hired the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to assess the agency’s approaches to ending violence against women in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, and to make recommendations for replicating AusAID-funded violence-prevention initiatives in other countries.
ICRW’s review will contribute to the bi-lateral organization’s effort to strengthen the effectiveness of its programs to end violence against women and bring them up to the highest global standard over the next three years. Meanwhile, in a separate project, AusAID also has commissioned ICRW to evaluate the agency’s work to promote women’s economic empowerment.
The partnership with AusAID began in 2011, and marks a new region of work – Melanesia – for ICRW. The review of the aid agency’s violence-prevention initiatives builds upon ICRW’s nearly four decades of expertise in documenting the complex causes and consequences of gender-based violence – and developing solutions to end it.
Specifically, ICRW is reviewing the effectiveness of six AusAID-funded initiatives to address gender-based violence. They include activities to improve survivors’ access to the justice system; programs that work with men and boys to prevent violence; and regional trainings for crisis shelters, among others. The agency has committed an estimated $320 million over the next decade to improve opportunities for the political, economic and social advancement of Pacific women.
“We have here a donor that is trying to do things right,” said Brian Heilman, a gender and evaluation specialist at ICRW. “AusAID is going to be able to invest heavily in projects over the next decade and they called on ICRW researchers and other experts to help them figure out how to do it most effectively.”
Indeed, it is a mammoth undertaking in a region where violence against women is widespread:
- In Fiji, 66 percent of women reported being abused by their male partner, and 30 percent said they had experienced repeated abuse, according to Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre research. Meanwhile, 2.3 percent of married women were victims of rape or attempted rape by non-partners.
- Approximately two-thirds of all women in Papua New Guinea reported being victims of domestic violence, according to a 1992 study – the most recent national prevalence data available. In two highland provinces, 100 percent of women said their intimate partner had been violent with them.
- Sixty percent of women in Vanuatu have endured physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime by a partner, of which 90 percent experienced severe violence. Half of women in Vanuatu have experienced violence by a non-partner since age 15. The prevalence of sexual abuse against girls is one of the highest in the world: nearly a third of women have been sexually abused before the age of 15.
Legislation encouraging access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence is on the books in Fiji and Vanuatu, but not in Papua New Guinea. Enforcing laws, however, is a challenge across all countries.
“We intend for our review to provide lessons for AusAID on how to improve survivors’ access to justice and support services as well as how to promote violence prevention overall,” said Stella Mukasa, director of ICRW research and programs on gender, violence and rights.
Researchers’ work in the region first began in 2011, when AusAID asked ICRW to evaluate progress on three key strategies for advancing violence against women prevention in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Timor-Leste. First put forward in 2008 by AusAID’s Office of Development Effectiveness, the strategies were: increasing access to justicefor survivors of violence; improving access and quality of support servicesfor survivors; and promoting violence prevention. The study also investigated efforts to strengthen the enabling environmentfor ending violence against women.
AusAID then commissioned ICRW to design a global monitoring and evaluation framework for the agency’s efforts to end violence against women, taking into account many of the recommendations ICRW proposed in its 2011 study.
Now, ICRW researchers are expected to finalize their review of AusAID’s approaches to ending violence against women in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu this summer.
Related ICRW study: Violence Against Women in Melanesia and Timor-Leste