REMARKS: Statement of Pacific Islands Forum SG Henry Puna on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW)

Remarks and Speeches
25 November 2023

The following is the Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna’s message on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, observed on 25 November, the first day of the global annual 16-Days campaign.


The 2023 United Nations 16 days Activism theme of Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls is a timely one for our Blue Pacific Continent. We are all aware of the high rates of Violence Against Women and Girls in our region. We know what needs to be done. We must invest more into doing more.
As we call for more investment, more action, and more solutions, let us also recognise the efforts of all those who have been at the forefront of addressing gender-based violence in our region, including feminists and women’s rights activists who have often been the target of harassment and intimidation because of their work. I also want to recognise those whose work in this space may not be as visible but is equally important. This includes community activists, traditional and religious leaders, and human rights defenders.

Why invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls? We all know that a Blue Pacific Continent that is thriving and working towards achieving our Leaders 2050 vision for a resilient Pacific Region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity must include our women and girls in all their diversity. Investing to prevent gender-based violence must involve our families and communities. Survivors of violence must receive the services required. Perpetrators must be held to account. An essential part of accountability is confidence in the security and rule of law offered by our governments. It also includes continued advocacy and the involvement of men and boys. We already know through the work of programmes such as the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls. A holistic approach that engages communities in faith, sport, and civic spaces contributes to working towards addressing violence against women and girls.

We need continued support for initiatives that work, as we know that intergenerational change takes time. To invest in preventing gender-based violence and violence against women and girls is to invest in our families, clans, tribes, and communities. To ensure that all citizens of our Blue Pacific Continent can contribute to building our communities, countries, and region. To accelerate action to take a solid and united stand against violence in all its forms.

At the regional level, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have endorsed the 2050 Strategy Implementation Plan (IP) and the revitalised Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration. These two critical regional frameworks provide the impetus for us to continue to collectively invest our time and resources to ensure that we work towards a Blue Pacific Continent that is safe and free for all. –ENDS