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Hope in paradise: tackling gender based violence in the Solomon Islands

World Vision
24 November 2014 by Amanda Carey
Hope in paradise: tackling gender based violence in the Solomon Islands

On our way to visit a project in the Solomon Islands - travelling by banana boat! Photo by Sophie Timothy

We arrived on the island after a wild 5 hour banana boat ride with thunder, lightning, torrential rain and shark sightings. What more could one wish for?

As our small canoe like boat pulled into the flat crystal clear waters following our rough sea ride, we all took a deep breath and admired the beauty. The water, the people and the lush green surroundings. We were welcomed with a beautiful lay of flowers presented by the children, a tribal dance, a song, and of course, coconuts! I felt like I had arrived at a beautiful holiday destination.

Apparently Will and Kate had their honeymoon at an exclusive/luxury resort not far from where we were.

I wasn’t visiting the Solomon Islands on a royal honeymoon though – I was leading a team of World Vision supporters, who had come to see our work first hand. Our visit focused on the “Channels of Hope” project that is tackling the problem of gender based violence.

I am passionate about the empowerment of women. Gender based violence does the exact opposite; it inhibits women’s ability and often who they truly are.

The Solomon Islands is a country where 99% of people claim to follow the Christian faith, yet gender based violence is such a huge issue. My heart was completely moved by what I saw, and I was challenged and determined to help make a difference for women who are experiencing violence.  Sadly most of them are unaware that they have alternatives.

What changes the worth of a woman? Why should she be treated as less than a man?

She shouldn’t. She is of value.  She has hopes and dreams just like you and me.

The problem is, gender based violence is  ingrained into the Solomon Island’s culture and will take generations to bring complete change. I love how World Vision works in a way that respects and encourages cultures – but also challenges practices and attitudes that are not healthy, that aren’t serving the good of men and women in their community.

A young boy in the Solomon Islands will grow up watching and observing how his father treats and respects his wife. Naturally, unless culture is challenged and changed, young boys will learn to treat women the same. Their attitude will be, “there is nothing wrong with it, because it’s normal”. Culture has to be changed so the young boy realises there is another way.

World Vision is working with local churches to help train and educate pastors and leaders in communities to challenge the norm of gender based violence. The police force in the Solomon Islands has even completed the training. Once community and church leaders have been trained, they can return to their communities and continue the cycle of education to help bring much needed change.

The great thing is, we are already seeing change in the lives of families in the Solomon Islands. I walked away thinking that there is such a huge job ahead, but so confident that lives and families are changing and that’s what it is all about.

We had the privilege to meet a man whose life had completely changed thanks to Channels of Hope. He changed from a ‘very violent man’ to a man taking time to listen to his wife – and enjoying it

In the Solomon Islands, women do not speak in the home so this cultural change was incredible to hear.

This particular man used to be a violent alcoholic, and was not respected by his community. Now people call him ‘Uncle’, a sign of respect. He is also helping other young men to transform their lives.

Such passion, enthusiasm and hope for other men. Change can happen. Young men in the community now believe there is another way – they have witnessed the transformation themselves.

I love the fact that World Vision is all about gender equality and empowering women. “If you can educate a girl, she can help herself; she can lift her family, help her community and change her country”. – Girl Rising

I really believe in the potential of women. It is essential that we are training and educating the next generation. Educate a girl and she has the potential to help change her country.

Development work is not a quick fix. Its about long term, it’s about the generations. World Vision does a brilliant job at that.

Amanda Carey Amanda Carey

Amanda is a Church Partnership Manager for World Vision Australia.

 

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