Australia will partner with World Vision to expand their Channels of Hope for Gender project—an innovative, faith-based initiative to help change violent behaviour towards women. Photo: Australian High Commission, Honiara.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop reinforced Australia’s enduring commitment to Solomon Islands as the country’s main development, trade and security partner during her visit to Honiara.
Ms Bishop said the visit was an opportunity to set the foundations for a stronger economic and strategic bilateral partnership.
‘Australia and Solomon Islands share a unique partnership between our people and our governments which is reflected through our decade long leadership of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and through delivery of our third largest aid program to Solomon Islands,’ Ms Bishop said.
At a business breakfast attended by government, business and industry representatives, Ms Bishop announced $15 million over five years to the Pacific Business Fund to provide business advisory services to over 250 companies in the Pacific, including Solomon Islands, to grow and diversity their operations and improved economic opportunities for women through additional support to the Private Sector Development Initiative.
Ms Bishop saw a Royal Solomon Islands Police Force public order management display, received a briefing on the sustainable management of the Pacific’s fisheries at the Forum Fisheries Agency and travelled to the remote Weathercoast on Guadalcanal Province to see some of the challenges involved in delivering basic services in Solomon Islands.
While visiting Burns Creek Village—an informal settlement of 15,000 people on the outskirts of Honiara—she saw Australian-funded gender and livelihood projects and announced assistance to help prevent family violence in Solomon Islands. Australia will partner with World Vision to expand their Channels of Hope for Gender project—an innovative, faith-based initiative to help change violent behaviour towards women.
‘Our support to World Vision is part of a $5 million gender program to help prevent family violence in Solomon Islands.’
Over the next three years, through the Prevention of Family Violence Program, Australia will support existing and new community level action to prevent violence from happening in the home. Support will also be given to the Christian Care Centre—the only refuge in Solomon Islands for women and children escaping family violence.
‘Solomon Islands rates of violence against women and girls are much higher in the Pacific than in other parts of the world. Much of the violence against women and children occurs in homes, with 64 per cent of women being abused by their intimate partner—double the global average.’
‘Our support continues to demonstrate Australia’s commitment to improving the lives of women in the Pacific. Women who live free from violence can contribute to economic growth, have better health outcomes and gain more leadership and education opportunities,’ Ms Bishop said.
World Vision Solomon Islands Country Director, Andrew Catford, said the Channels of Hope for Gender project works with churches and community leaders to change people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
‘We are grateful for Australia’s ongoing support to address the endemic issue of gender-based violence in Solomon Islands. The Channels of Hope approach is impacting positively on people and communities. We are starting to see how it is transforming people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviours regarding women, but there is still much work to be done,’ Dr Catford said.
Ms Bishop also congratulated 60 Solomon Islanders who will receive Australia Awards scholarships to study at Australian or regional universities next year.
Ms Bishop was accompanied to Solomon Islands by Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Senator Brett Mason, the Hon Tanya Plibersek and the Hon Matt Thistlethwaite, along with Australia’s new Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms Natasha Stott Despoja.
Photos: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's visit to Solomon Islands