“I want there to be respect at school, at home and everywhere”

“Sexual abuse is the biggest social problem in Vanuatu today,” were the words spoken by Ralph Regenvanu, the Vanuatu Minister of Foreign Affairs, during World Vision’s launch of the ‘It takes respect to create a safer Vanuatu’ campaign in Port Vila on 10 May 2018.  

As a leader renowned for fighting for social justice and being very popular among Vanuatu youth, he added that the messages about respect shared by World Vision were connected to the preamble of Vanuatu’s constitution and could help in efforts to building a safer nation.

Close to two thousand children, youth and adults attended the four-hour launch event in Port Vila.  World Vision’s campaign targets adolescents up to the age of 18, who are considered children by law, and youth aged up to 25 years. The “It takes respect to create a safer Vanuatu” campaign focusses on the importance of consent in intimate relationships.  The campaign slogan in Bislama is “Rispektem yu wan, respektem narafala man” (respect yourself, respect others). The campaign slogan makes the connection between showing respect by attaining consent in intimate relationships with a reduction in sexual violence against women and girls.

Friana Kwevira, Vanuatu’s first Commonwealth Games medallist, and World Vision youth ambassador, said, “This is a big problem in Vanuatu today, so I am really glad that I can be of some assistance through this initiative.”

The activities organised for the evening included four local bands playing music throughout the night, screening of videos produced by Wan Smol Bag Theatre on the issue of consent, videos of World Vision’s youth ambassadors speaking about consent, a video and photo pledge booth, dance groups, statement boards with scenarios and space to answer questions, speeches, an interactive graffiti piece, speeches, games, food and kava stalls. 

The interactive graffiti piece was a unique activity. Members of the public were invited to write a word or draw a symbol connected to the campaign concept on a canvas while artist Narsong Taleo created his art work around their contributions.

“I am so excited that we are finally using art as an expressive way to educate people and stimulate their thinking in this interactive manner.  It was very moving when men, women and young people walked up to the canvas to contribute,” said Narsong.

World Vision Vanuatu Country Director Michael Wolfe said, “We know that sexual violence is a huge issue in Vanuatu.  Research indicates almost one in three girls in Vanuatu are sexually abused before the age of 15, and that a significant portion of these assaults are perpetrated by boyfriends.” “Our Vanuatu staff felt that focusing on consent in intimate relationships would be the most appropriate way for us to contribute to World Vision’s international ‘It takes a world to end violence against children’ campaign.  The launch event was a huge success, and all the feedback we have received has been positive.”

All parts of the program were set up purposely so that everybody who participated, saw or heard the activities received some information on the issues of respect and consent in relationships.  The stage program was arranged to match the timing of messages and other videos and information displayed on the projector. The program also included the master of ceremonies continually reinforcing campaign messages, reminding the crowd of the different activities that were happening, as well as highlighting key venue information including the location of garbage bins and disability toilets.

Sargent Jack Kanas of the Vanuatu Police Force Uniform Investigation Branch commented, “As a police officer and a father, I really liked your event. I have never seen a big event organised in this way, where there wasn’t too much music and not too many speeches, so that everyone was able to learn something new. I was personally able to take some new things from the event home to help me think about how to solve this problem. I think all other big events should use your event as a model and it would be really good if this could become an annual event.”

It was also great to see young children at the event sharing their thoughts on the importance of respect. Five-year-old Ohziana John stated, “I want there to be respect at school, at home and everywhere”.

During the night, the event was live streamed on the radio, photographed and filmed, posted, tweeted and journalists and individuals were there to report and document the event. Radio, newspapers and posts on popular public social media pages shared the story of the launch in the days that followed.