Partnering to end violence against women

Bill Tweddell

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On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we are reminded of the horrific acts of violence against women that take place every day

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we are reminded of the horrific acts of violence against women that take place every day – in Australia and across the Pacific, in the countries of the Indian Ocean Rim and beyond.  

Violence against women persists as one of the most heinous and prevalent human rights abuses. 

While there is no shortage of good work being done in every country, the statistics remain deeply disturbing, and the impact of violence on individuals’ lives and on the well-being of our communities is devastating.  

Globally, more than one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way, most often by someone she knows, including her husband or another male family member. In some parts of the Pacific, the reported rate is as high as two in three surveyed women. In the Philippines, one in five Filipino women aged 15 to 49 has experienced physical violence. In Australia, one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner.  

Violence affects women first and foremost, but also their children, families and communities. However, it is also a burden on national economies, as well as a barrier to lasting peace and a threat to sustainable national development.

Australia’s National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children reported that in 2009 violence against women and their children cost the Australian economy an estimated A$13.6 billion (P544 billion) and, without appropriate action, this could rise to A$15.6 billion (P624 billion) by 2021-22.  The Philippine Commission on Women estimates that the Philippines spent an estimated P6 billion (A$150 million) to treat women survivors of violence.

International evidence shows we can create the change necessary to prevent violence against women and their children. To do this, we must address the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate, justify, excuse and fail to counter such violence. 

Australia recently launched its Second Action Plan: Moving Ahead 2013-16 which unites the Australian community to make a significant and sustained reduction in the levels of violence against women and their children. During the Second Action Plan, we expect that cultural change will advance; women will feel encouraged to report their experiences; and more members of the Australian community will actively reject violence. 

Recognizing that violence against women is an issue that affects women and girls around the world, Australia is committed to supporting and partnering with other countries to end violence against women. 

Causes and consequences

Earlier this year, Australia launched a four-year A$20 million (P800 million) program aimed at addressing both the causes and consequences of violence in Timor-Leste by working to prevent violence and provide support services.  

In Fiji, Australia has supported the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre since its establishment in 1984 to provide counselling and support services to over 35,000 new clients and 41,000 repeat clients.  

Australia has also contributed more than A$30 million (P1.2 billion) to ending violence against women and girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan since 2013. This funding is providing support services for women and their children as well as innovative approaches to engaging with men, women, religious and community leaders to challenge attitudes and behaviours that tolerate violence against women. 

One of the worst forms of violence against women in Asia is human trafficking.  Australia has committed A$50 million (P2 billion) over five years to implement the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons (AAPTIP), a regional program to strengthen the capacity of governments in the region to address human trafficking through criminal justice responses. It builds on ten years of Australian regional experience in supporting anti-trafficking efforts, including Australia’s Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons (ARTIP) program, through which we collaborated with the Government of the Philippines on innovative responses to investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating trafficking crimes. In July this year, I was pleased to witness the signing of a Memorandum of Subsidiary Agreement by the Philippine Government with AAPTIP to deepen this regional anti-trafficking effort.

In the Philippines, Australia has supported many advocacy and intervention projects as well as support services for women and children. Funding to organizations such as the Venue for Initiative and Genuine Development (VINE) Foundation in Cebu, the Hospicio de San Jose Sanctuary for Women in Manila, and Tahanan Sta Luisa in Quezon City helps provide crisis intervention and safe spaces for women and children. 

Break the silence

One of the advocacies, the Embassy supports the “Break the Silence Network” which aims to intensify education in hard to reach rural communities on the issue of deaf child sexual abuse.

Recent natural disasters in the Philippines have shown that women and girls are extremely vulnerable in humanitarian crisis situations. Australia has a partnership with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in the Philippines to deliver women- and child-friendly services in Typhoon Haiyan-affected areas. Through a A$12.5 million grant to UNFPA, Australia is helping the government provide safe places for women and bring normalcy back in their lives. 

Women are particularly susceptible to violence during times of conflict, emergencies and crisis. This is why Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, is a Champion of the United Kingdom’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative. It is also why Australia is active at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to promote the Women, Peace and Security agenda. In October this year, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, attended the UNSC Open Debate on Women Peace and Security, drawing attention to the particular vulnerability of women and girls displaced by conflict and calling for an end to sexual violence in conflict.

In June this year, the Australian Embassy partnered with the British Embassy in supporting a delegation of Filipino women leaders in the peace process, to participate in the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict held in London.  Secretary Teresita ‘Ging’ Deles and Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process led the delegation of Filipino women who have played key roles in conflict resolution and peace building. The Summit provided a global platform for sharing the significant contribution of women to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, empowering other women to take a pro-active role in shaping their future. The Embassy supported the Philippine delegation on this very important summit to give these extraordinary women leaders a unique opportunity to be part of this global effort to end a culture of impunity that still pervades in many places around the world.

Each individual, community and government has a responsibility to speak out against violence against women. In our workplaces, in our schools and universities, in our communities and in our homes, we must all say “enough.”

Australia’s Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott MP, is leading by example as a White Ribbon Ambassador. At the highest level of the Australian Government, Prime Minister Abbott has made clear that Australia has zero tolerance for violence against women. 

Our collective efforts are needed to achieve profound and lasting change around the world, not just for the benefit of women and girls, but for all of us. –


Bill Tweddell is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines

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