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Government representatives, NGOs and UN agencies in Fiji ‘UNiTE’ to address Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies
In January and March of 2012, Fiji’s Western Division suffered extensive flooding. The flooding led to 10 deaths and temporarily displaced over 19,000 people who were forced to evacuate their homes. The Fijian Government declared a State of Natural Disaster, and the Pacific Humanitarian Team – a collaborative effort between all major humanitarian actors that provide assistance throughout the Pacific Island region supported the response and early recovery activities.
In an effort to build from this latest humanitarian response to the floods in Fiji and develop further the capacity of first responders to address Gender and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) issues, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the Pacific Humanitarian Protection Cluster led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), hosted a five-day workshop involving key humanitarian actors to introduce basic Gender and GBV concepts in emergency preparedness and response, using practical exercises and building from case studies and lessons learned.
This initiative aims to be built into a longer term strategy to integrate Gender and GBV in emergencies, as well as programmatic response, mainstreaming across other sectors, as well as preparedness efforts.
In her address to participants, Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Jiko Luveni, stated that in Fiji, like in other countries in the world, institutions and systems for physical and social protection tend to be weakened or destroyed in the event of emergencies. Police, health, education, legal and social services are often disrupted, and many people flee to seek refuge while those remaining often do not have the facilities and the means to manage their daily lives.
“It is in disaster situations that gender-based violence is documented to escalate as a public health and human rights problem in Fiji. Women and children can become targets of sexual abuse. They are vulnerable to exploitation, violence and abuse simply because of their gender: their sex, age and status in society. It is the women who have to carry the burden of looking after the wellbeing and safety of their children, sometimes without paying enough attention to their own needs. Existing disaster management operations are not sensitive to the specific needs of our women, men, girls, boys, people with disabilities and the elderly,” she said.
Dr Luveni stated that the most common gender-based violence reported occurring in acute emergencies was sexual violence and this typically involved female victims and male perpetrators.
“Other forms of gender based violence that have been observed to occur during rehabilitation and recovery periods in Fiji are domestic violence, including withholding of basic necessities, and commercial sexual exploitation. The severity and incidence of sexual violence and domestic violence often increase in the aftermath of natural disasters. This requires immediate intervention from humanitarian actors such as ourselves,” Dr Luveni challenged. Unfortunately, when people find themselves in desperate situations such as after an emergency, others may take advantage of the most vulnerable and this is when exchanging sex for survival can occur.
In his address, Dirk Jena, the Representative of UNFPA, highlighted that this year Fiji was unfortunate to witness not one but two successive humanitarian emergencies, and he highlighted the need for first responders to more effectively consider the different needs of women and men, girls and boys during the emergency response. He noted the important progress made at a technical meeting on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergencies held earlier this month.
“At the United Nations we considered it therefore an opportune moment to organize a series of related workshops so as to facilitate such learning to the benefit, not only for the local community but also for our global community in respect of what works and what doesn’t work in situations of a humanitarian emergency,” Mr Jena said.
Workshop topics included: gender issues in humanitarian settings, addressing the different needs of women, men, boys and girls in humanitarian settings, gender mainstreaming across sectors, immediate prevention and response to GBV in emergencies, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse and results from the assessment on Gender and GBV related issues following the Fiji floods in 2012.
A major achievement was the formation of a Gender and Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies (GGBViE) working group lead by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation and supported by UN Women Humanitarian Focal point for coordination and secretariat functions, which will continue to build their capacity and join the UN Gender Surge in times of emergencies to ensure that gender is integrated into emergency response. The working group is also committed to revising the current checklists for the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and supporting the sectors within the NDMO to integrate gender and gender-based violence into their sectoral response plans.
The workshop was facilitated through support from the global Gender-Based Violence Area of Responsibility of the Protection Cluster (GBV AoR) Rapid Response Team for Asia and the Pacific, co- facilitated with expertise from the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Gender Capacity Adviser and the Pacific Humanitarian Team, Protection Cluster, Child Protection sub-cluster and Gender Theme Group co-chairs, UNFPA and UN Women.
|Date:||6 August 2012|
|Action Type:||Awareness Raising|
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