TRANSFORMING HARMFUL SOCIAL NORMS IN SOLOMON ISLANDS
At the end of February, our Research Associate Sarah McCook, and Communications and Marketing Manager Marta Jasińska, spent two weeks in Solomon Islands supporting two workshops and interviewing different people from within Oxfam and other sectors. The Equality Institute is working with Oxfam in Solomon Islands on their programming to end violence against women, which focuses on engaging with national and provincial leaders, civil society, and communities to address the drivers of violence and create favourable environments for change. In between workshops, our staff also met with stakeholders from these spaces to gain a broader understanding of the Solomon Islands context. The EQI staff and Solomon Islander experts from various sectors collaborated on how best to approach the harmful social norms that drive violence against women in the country.
35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence, and most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Solomon Islands women experience violence at a rate higher than the global average. The 2009 Solomon Islands Family Health and Safety Study found that 64% of ever-partnered women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner since age 15, and 37% of young women aged 14-29 reported that they had been sexually abused before age 15.
Sarah and Marta split their time between Auki in Malaita Province and the capital of Solomon Islands, Honiara. In Auki, they facilitated a workshop over two days with staff from the Safe Families program. Safe Families is Oxfam Australia’s comprehensive, community-led model of violence prevention in Solomon Islands. The workshop focussed on existing global evidence on, and best practice for, addressing social norms to end violence against women. Participants, who already have an in-depth knowledge of the issue of violence against women, identified some of the primary social norms that are driving violence in the Solomon Islands context. One of the key themes that emerged was the pattern of male dominance and authority over women, which participants agreed contributes to unequal power in public life and in the home.
Through a mutual exchange of learning, the Safe Families staff created their own ending violence against women campaigns that were targeted at changing the harmful social norms they had identified. The campaigns went beyond awareness raising, and focused on generating long-term social change. They also identified relevant stakeholders and effective messaging, and worked to develop campaign activities that could generate real change in their communities.
Sarah and Marta then facilitated a similar workshop in Honiara. Community-level engagement was a key focus of the workshop; the participants brought extensive knowledge and experiences from a range of sectors including community police, disability services, domestic violence support services, sports clubs, international and local non-government organisations, and government representatives.
The EQI was honoured to learn from so many diverse organisations and experts in the Solomon Islands and we look forward to continuing to work with them to support broad-based social change that will benefit all Solomon Island communities. It’s great to know we are part of a wider movement working to make violence against women and girls a thing of the past across the Asia-Pacific region.
 Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/85239/1/9789241564625_eng.pdf
 Solomon Islands Family Health and Safety Study: A study on violence against women and children: http://countryoffice.unfpa.org/pacific/drive/SolomonIslandsFamilyHealthandSafetyStudy.pdf
 Safe Families is part of a 10-year strategic initiative supported by the Australian Government to prevent and respond to family and sexual violence in Solomon Islands.