With a population of  no more than 300,000 people, educating Vanuatu men about Gender should not be an impossible task but yet after 35 years, Gender is still an issue not fully understood by a lot of Vanuatu men.

A lot of Women leaders try to address this issue with their learned methods and most of the time do not receive the proper support from their communities as most men feel the women are out there trying to tell everyone it is a man’s fault that a lot of women do not have equal access or equal participation in a lot of activities in our society or that it is a man’s fault that a women is violently mistreated. To some extend men must accept the blame but Vanuatu men can also say “Vanuatu women rights are given them on a platter which women in Vanuatu cannot deny so what is the issue here”?

The issue here would be among a lot of other issues is “Violence”, which women feel must stop and yes we men feel it must be stopped. However it is a failure for a woman and a man, when together they advocate to stop “Violence against women” but yet have never spent a minute to tell their sons and daughters why they must never act violent towards a woman.

I read an article a few days ago that said “Violence against women” is a national issue and I fully agree but however I will strongly say the approach to addressing this “national issue” is totally wrong. Since we do have a relatively small population compared to all the Melanesian countries it would be better for advocacy groups not be too emotionally attached to the advocacy to stop violence as their experience can create a personal vendetta to fighting the issue, and this can cause divisions among the people and can ultimately weaken the results of Gender Advocacy.

Finding a common ground to address the issue in Vanuatu is a must and preventive measures must be looked at but before that there is the need to address the attitude of advocacy groups who come out firing their guns left,right, and center without realizing that the man is from Vanuatu, the woman is from Vanuatu, and they both have one thing in common; they are both Ni-Vanuatu, with the same traditions and the same culture, and we are not trying to educate two different race here, we are trying to address the issues of one race, and one people.

Again keeping in mind the Vanuatu population is only about 300,000, and the aim to stop Violence against women is in Vanuatu, why would you takes sides and in the process end all possibilities of resolving issues more effectively and also look to ensure there is an understanding that violence should not be used against a woman as it violates her right as a woman Vanuatu, but more importantly allow men to understand that the act of violence against women violates the rules of our customs? Too many women these days burn bridges and do not take the time to build a bridge and the attitude has resulted in a big gap of understanding on the issues of women in Vanuatu by Vanuatu men as women address the act more and  do not pay much attention or no attention at all on the man who commits the act.  It is “looking at the branches without realizing the roots give it life”

From a personal perspective, I feel women are addressing the issue of Gender in this country the wrong way and look more to addressing women than addressing the men who violate the rights of women. I look at this and one question that always bother’s me is this; a man violates a woman’s right, and advocacy groups all run to the aid of the woman, the woman is a victim and I think we all agree, but wouldn’t it be more effective for women to meet the man who is responsible for the violence, and address his issues as a preventive measure to ensure the act of violence is understood as being wrong?

It does not make sense that with just 300, 000 people we do not look to “prevent” but are more interested in being sympathetic and and try to advocate to “every man”  and want to attract an attention when we only have a small population to address. If we had 1 million people I would agree that yes, it is impossible to advocate on a personal level and the advocacy must be an outreach but with 300, 000 people, Vanuatu can succeed in addressing this issue, and get better results in the gender Advocacy roles and Violence against women can get results or ultimately stop as the advocacy directs itself correctly and operates with the right focus. The point is, leave the woman alone as she is already violated and start talking to the men who commit the violation to ensure he understands the wrong and talk more about preventive measures.

To be more effective with a population of only 300,000, women must first teach the “future” men in their homes to respect women and not treat women in a violent manner and as Vanuatu has a strong customs beliefs and traditions, teach children that our customs and traditions also say we must not act in a violent manner towards our mothers, sisters, bubu’s or any woman. It is also a responsibility for a woman to ask the government to teach children to respect a woman and not act towards her in a violent manner and women can ask the government to introduce into our curriculum “Human Rights” as a subject in our schools. Children are the hearts of a nation and for a country like Vanuatu as quoted by Aristotle “Educating the mind and not educating the heart is no education at all”.

Starting teaching the “future” as a preventive measure and this “future” will grow up knowing the importance of respect and this “future” will know by heart the importance of respect for a woman. It would be better for the cause of advocacy groups in Vanuatu to look to educating the “future” men as it will be this “future” who will control their fathers at home. Everyone in Vanuatu knows, Ni-Van fathers always have a soft spot for their children and if a woman Vanuatu cannot make a man understand the importance of respect towards a woman, allow a child to teach a man the importance of respect for a woman. In Vanuatu culture, children are the hearts of a home, the hearts of a community, the hearts of an island, the hearts of a province, the hearts of a country and we must educate the children of this country, and their minds will be strong and they will grow up to respect women and any act of violation to a woman will not be tolerated by them. .

As it is a national interest, women must ask governments the right questions and also ask governments what they know their governments can achieve. To properly address gender, specifically “Violence” women must also understand their governments and in Vanuatu women must accept the responsibilities that any government under takes but also women must accept the fact that a male dominated government is the result of a decision made by a woman as women do have the power to change the face of democracy but it is a choice.

A woman’s issue is a national interest and there are international conventions that Vanuatu must also look to uphold and accomplish in it’s own missions for humanity, but we must address our issues as one people, as one country vibrant in culture and traditions that do protect our women, promote our women, and provide for our women. As a national interest, we must also respect the opinions and views of men regarding gender and direct our focus to Malvatumauri Council Of Chiefs whose voice is very important in protecting women and advocating for women and it is them the women groups should be talking to as our customs do value respect and Vanuatu men believe respect is honorable.

The act of Violence is never accepted in our customs and traditional beliefs and it is not accepted by our churches nor accepted by our democracy so we need to find common grounds to address this particular issue as it is an “attitude” that must be eradicated from the hearts and minds of our people and it is for this very reasons that educating our people especially our children is important to the issues of Gender.

As a man Vanuatu, my perspectives on Gender is “Gender must look more to unite the people than divide, it must look to hear the men as much as hear the women, and if Gender is a national interest then it is in the best interest of our nation to allow 300,000 people to advocate for Gender and in Vanuatu this can be done but our people must address the gender issue together in respective of different opinions, and advocacy groups must involve everyone to correctly address the Gender issues and look to improve the advocacy to get results.

The Gender Advocacy must not be a “Man Vs Woman” issue but a home issue, a community issue, a island issue, a provincial issue and ultimately a national issue fully understood by 300,000 people to its significance in the development of our nation. We must allow and ensure our people, all 300,000 are advocates and that through them, we ensure we teach the “future” the importance of “Human Rights” and to always remember the importance roles of our customs and we must always remember that we are responsible for our own rules of democracy.

To my humble opinion, in respect to all our women, we must address Gender with our own modules that is understood by our people to achieve and uphold all international conventions and agreements regarding Gender issues that we are part of. It is important for men to understand that they play a big role for the rights of women, and we must be fair in addressing Gender and look to address men’s issues as being an integral solution to gender advocacy as well. It is also important to realize that with only 300,000 people, Gender must look to “educating the heart as much as it educates the mind” and any legislation introduced will be fully supported and understood, and it will be the people who look to uphold the right of a woman in Vanuatu and as one people the Gender Advocacy especially in regards to Violence will have a strong voice and will get results.