Tackling gender-based violence in the Solomon Islands

This project funded by the Australian Government through

Channels of Hope driving a shift in cultural attitudes to violence

World Vision has been working in communities across the Solomon Islands with a powerful and effective method to change deeply entrenched attitudes that perpetuate gender-based violence and inequality. Called 'Channels of Hope', the approach partners with church leaders to effect positive change in the community.

The shocking rates of family and intimate partner violence occurring in the Solomon Islands cannot be attributed to one factor alone. Patriarchal systems of social organisation and belief reinforce the dominance of men and boys over women and girls in almost all aspects of public and private life.

The elimination of violence against women is a complex and multifaceted task, yet one that is by its very nature urgent. That's why programs aiming to address gender-based violence must take innovative approaches to address mentalities underpinning violence at their roots.

The facts: Gender-based violence in the Solomon Islands

38 percent

of women report their first sexual experience as having been forced

63 percent

of men believe it is acceptable to hit women in certain circumstances

2 out of 3

women have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner

Sources: 1. Solomon Islands National Statistics Office, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Macro International Inc. Solomon Islands Demographic and Health Survey 2006-2007. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, May 2009.

2. Secretariat of the Pacific Community for Ministry of Women, Youth & Children’s Affairs. Solomon Islands Family Health and Safety Study: A study on violence against women and children. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 2009.

Channels of Hope approach

World Vision’s Channels of Hope for Gender partners with church leaders to effect positive change in the community by engaging them in discussion about gender equality and non-violence through faith messaging. The program has been implemented in over 59 countries.

The program also works with existing support services by providing links for survivors of violence, building capacity to address issues of substance abuse and conflict, and supports church and community leaders to refer survivors to services.

With over 90 percent of Solomon Islanders identifying as Christian, faith-based responses have been identified as particularly well-placed to tackle pervasive negative gender attitudes. In this context, faith leaders are among the most influential members of the community. As such they can have a significant effect on social attitudes.

World Vision's Channels of Hope program brings together and engages faith leaders around biblical texts that affirm the equality of women and men, the need to treat each other with respect, and to act to eliminate gender violence. The program then equips them and members of their congregations to be activists for gender equality and against gender violence. In so doing, these faith leaders are becoming powerful agents of positive change in their communities.

With support from the Australian Government’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australia's High Commission to the Solomon Islands , World Vision has been working with communities in urban Honiara and rural Temotu and Weather Coast to implement the Channels of Hope for Gender methodology and challenge those beliefs and behaviours leading to gender-based and sexual violence.

World Vision Channels of Hope

A new approach to combating gender based violence, funded by the Australian government, is offering hope for a change in culture in the Solomon Islands.

Impact of the project

Evaluations of the project in Honiara, Temotu and the Weather Coast found compelling evidence of positive change attributed to the Channels of Hope for Gender Community Vision for Change projects in key areas.

Findings indicated that while progress is gradual, men and women alike are beginning to shift their perceptions of women’s rights and roles.

For example:

  • The percentage of men who believe that a woman is able to accuse her husband of rape rose from 70 percent to 83 percent.
  • The percentage of women who claim that women should not make decisions fell from 34 percent to 4 percent.
  • The percentage of men who believe the Bible says that "man is boss" dropped from 83 percent to 66 percent.

Dani, a Channels of Hope workshop attendee from Burns Creek in Honiara, thanked World Vision for giving him the opportunity to learn important life lessons. "I learned about the qualities of men towards women and that men and women are made equal,” Dani said. "I didn't respect other people’s views, even my family's view. But after going through the Channels of Hope training, I am now a changed person."

Community members and faith leaders participate in Channels of Hope training. Photos by Sophie Timothy

Women in focus group discussions reported that Channels of Hope for Gender had started a critically important conversation that they felt was benefiting women and children. Women became more outspoken and critical about the lack of response from different service providers and talked more openly about community perceptions and women’s experiences of gender equality and domestic violence. Men were also found to be generally more willing to discuss gender-based violence and gender relations within their communities.

There was an improvement in awareness and linkages to service providers for survivors of gender-based violence, and key community focal points "were clearly supporting survivors to reach such services".

Maddy, who is an influential community member and a well-respected early childhood education teacher, came across a domestic violence case in her community. Maddy immediately reassured the victim and referred her to the Family Support Centre, to receive counselling.

She recalls, "Before I began participating in World Vision’s Community Vision 4 Change project as a focal point, I felt that I did not have the appropriate knowledge to refer survivors of gender-based violence to support services such as health clinics, police or the Family Support Centre. Now I understand the different referral processes and what information about the incidents I need to report on. I feel much more confident to support people who experience gender-based violence to seek support from these services. I also have a much better understanding of my role as a focal point linking survivors of gender-based violence to appropriate support services."

Overwhelmingly, church elders, pastors, community members and other participants in both project sites expressed long-term commitment to the reduction of violence in the communities, and to the continuation of the Community Vision for Change project. By changing community attitudes and behaviours, women and children are better protected against violence, and families are safer, happier and healthier.

Read the Channels of Hope for Gender in the Solomon Islands project evaluation summary here to find out more.