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The Real ‘SOE’ in Melanesia - Part II: Addressing Domestic Violence

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

In 2012, Solomon Islands pledged with Pacific Leaders during the Pacific Islands Forum to accelerate efforts towards closing the region’s gender gap. Eight years on, progress still lags.

Statistically, nearly two in three Solomon Island women (aged 15-49 years), experience violence.

Women are also chronically under-represented at decision-making levels (5% in senior public servant positions, 22% at mid-level positions).

These are dire stats, and the backdrop to the situation I alluded to in Part I of this series.

Research indicates addressing gender-biased social norms is crucial.

Removing such discriminatory practices and addressing social norms amplifies the positive effects of gender-responsive measures, and changing perceptions is key to me - because you know what?

I’m tired.

I’m tired of looking at this, left (at the men) and right (at the women), and not knowing where and how to start.

Do I start with the men, who have grown up feeling entitled to being fed and waited on since - what - birth? (Please tell me who is called to organise the food for our gatherings? Or to serve for their brothers or fathers?)

Or do I start with the women, who think it is our place to submit to men, because of their culture and/or their religion - to the point that they get beaten senseless - sometimes in front of (or even more heartbreakingly, with) their children? Who despite going through this trauma themselves, they still think it is their lot in their life, and say “Hem wok blo ol man naya” (translated: That’s what men do). It’s absolutely, unequivocally NOT!

I think we have gone beyond the point of segregating DV and GBV issues singularly to men because, let’s be realistic, there are also some very angry women out there inflicting violence on their men too.

But our collective silence will be our undoing.

I want us to move beyond watching - or ignoring an issue you see.

Is your friend unnecessarily afraid when startled? Does she have weird marks she covers? Does she speak quickly into her phone, overly explaining a seemingly innocuous situation?

Please reach out. Please intervene. Please speak up.

Jenelyn is our sister in PNG, but (and I write this with tears in my eyes) she is the epitome of our beautiful, diverse Melanesia not embracing its diversity and failing her - and every other young woman and girl who went before her, and come after her - as a collective.


And this is certainly not reflective of the cultural frameworks we were brought up in.