For a country comprised of 33 islands in the central tropical Pacific – 21 of them inhabited – Kiribati’s population is one of the smallest at just over 100,000 people.
Yet this small developing nation has struggled as much as larger countries with the problem of violence against women.
At a UNFPA hosted side event at the 57th CSW, “The Role of Data in Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls,” Anne Kautu, Kiribati’s Women’s Officer in the Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs, spoke of the challenges of data collection and utilization in her country when used to combat violence.
“The problems with the isolation of the islands, of getting to those islands to get the data and also getting the information back to disseminate it – because they need that, they require information [to come] back – that is the main problem at the moment that we are having,” Kautu told MediaGlobal.
Kautu explained that Kiribati was one of the first countries in the Pacific to look at violence against women in a coordinated fashion. Until a 2008 survey conducted with the help of UNFPA, and co-funded by Australian Agency for International Development and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, no data existed on the prevalence of domestic violence on the island. The study showed that 68 percent of girls and women aged 14-49 years experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner. The data allowed officials to tailor their responses against abuse.
The Kiribati Family Health and Support Study, a title given to protect the content of the questions, had trained individuals to privately interview the woman or girl randomly selected from the study’s 2,000 households – an essential element of collecting data about domestic violence. Results omitted names of islands or villages to protect the women who shared details about their communities.
As a result of the study, the Kiribati government is currently drafting anti-domestic violence legislation, Kautu said. Government task forces were set up to coordinate and monitor gender-based violence initiatives and police training incorporated curriculum about addressing domestic violence. Standard operating procedures, implemented on even the smaller islands, were established so all sectors – health, education, law enforcement – had increased awareness across the board, Kautu also explained.
Currently, the developing island nation is currently working on a United Nations coordinated initiative addressing capacity building and support for victims, Kautu told the event’s attendees.
“What we’ve done at the moment is tried to train – we have focal points in the outer islands, so we try to get them in and do training with them,” said Kautu to MediaGlobal. “Also, if we need an extra bit of data, we try to get them to be able to do that.”
Speaking to a particular development struggle, she added, “At the moment our country is trying to get Internet installed to all the outer islands, so slowly we have a few islands we can contact. But that’s always a problem, lack of communication and systems. The main way now is getting information through the radio, and using the focal points and existing structures rather than us going out there, because it is very costly.”
Originally published at MediaGlobal.