Sister Doreen is working to reduce the high rate of violence against women in the Solomon Islands.
I often meet inspiring people during my travels with World Vision. None have impressed me as much as the tenacious Sister Doreen from Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Sister Doreen leads the Christian Care Centre, which provides short-term safe houses for women and children fleeing from domestic violence.
Contrary to her demure appearance, Sister Doreen is a fiery advocate for the rights of women and children. “It’s important to bring the story to the light,” she says.
“Having a safe home allows women and children to, when they’re ready, tell their stories. Some have been through sexual abuse for a long time, so you can imagine the trauma they’ve been through,” she says.
As well as providing protection and safety, Sister Doreen facilitates roundtable discussions between family members each month.
These discussions help unravel the underlying causes of violence. This is so important in a country like the Solomon Islands where 64% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner.
But change takes time. It’s not enough to run a few workshops on laws preventing violence or to raise awareness using radio broadcasts and posters – it requires a systematic, long-term commitment to engage people on these issues.
Sister Doreen says, “We’re banging against a hard wall.” This is true, but slowly, these hard walls are starting to crumble.
World Vision is working with faith leaders to influence their attitudes and practices using a biblical messaging model called Channels of Hope for Gender.
This kind of work is often challenging, but incredibly rewarding.
Some of the rewards from World Vision’s project have been seeing cases of child abuse being reported to the police. Meeting these children was extremely moving.
I heard about the welts on the oldest daughter’s back from being hit with an iron rod and the bruises on her stomach from being kicked with boots.
It was hard to keep the tears back when I heard about how she has endured this violence for a long time, and has stayed home from school to care for her younger siblings after her mother left (due to experiencing extreme violence).
In spite of such traumatic events, her eyes were bright and engaging and she shook my hand with a cheeky smile. She and her siblings now have a safe place to play, laugh, heal and just be kids.
For me, visiting the Christian Care Centre and hearing about how World Vision’s work in reaching women and children who experience violence, was both encouraging and confronting.
No one should have to ensure this kind of treatment – it’s unacceptable. I’m glad we’re able to do something to respond when trauma occurs, but my deepest hope is that one day, places like Honiara will be free from violence.
Learn more about Sister Doreen and her inspirational work:
Michelle Lokot is a Gender Adviser at World Vision Australia.
If you or someone you know has experienced abuse, call the Domestic Violence Helpline on 1800 800 098 (free call).