Key stakeholders working to address family and gender-based violence have welcomed the opportunity to learn more about community policing and education initiatives being undertaken by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), with support from the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
On 12 March – the day after Solomon Islands celebrated International Women’s Day – RAMSI convened a workshop to highlight the scope of RSIPF engagement across all provinces to reduce incidences of domestic and family violence. Representatives from the RSIPF, non-government organisations, donor groups, Safenet partners and the diplomatic corps attended.
Outlining her objectives for the workshop, Special Coordinator of RAMSI, Ms Justine Braithwaite said that during her recent discussions with individual stakeholders about improving the safety of women and children, “it’s become clear to me that there is a high level of interest of the work the RAMSI Participating Police Force (PPF) are doing with the RSIPF on family violence.”
“I wanted to hold this gathering today to start a more joined-up conversation amongst all interested partners. And I want to draw an explicit link between policing and communities, and the broader critical work many of you are doing to improve gender equality across Solomon Islands,” Ms Braithwaite explained.
“Violence against women and children is a crime. It is not just an issue for women. It’s not just a policing matter. It is a matter for all of us, for governments, for communities, for churches, leaders and chiefs, for donors and civil society.”
“The involvement of women in decision-making facilitates economic growth and aids poverty reduction. But we should not forget the key role that women also play in preserving peace and stability. In this way, ensuring greater security and safety for women and children in communities is key to sustaining peace across the nation,” Ms Braithwaite said.
During the meeting members of the RAMSI PPF presented on the community policing and family violence initiatives that they have developed together with the RSIPF.
These include advocacy and influence on laws and policies, including through the revised Police Act and Family Protection Bill; raising community awareness through education and training aids, merchandise and advertising; and long range community patrols which have helped the RSIPF reach almost 88,000 Solomon Islanders over the last twelve months. Ongoing PPF training for all ranks of the RSIPF is aimed at educating officers on the need to understand the dynamics of family violence; how to respond to and support victims; and ensure follow through with investigations and where possible prosecutions.
During the discussions participants raised some of the challenges they have experienced in their work in Solomon Islands in addressing domestic violence. These included the scale of the family violence problem; the limited resources available to combat it; logistical issues inherent in policing remote communities; the need for greater support from the justice sector in holding offenders accountable; and how to change community attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate violence against women and girls.
It was agreed that the meeting was a good beginning in linking police efforts more closely to existing donor coordination mechanisms. Further discussions will ensure complementarity of effort as all stakeholders work to promote the equal participation of Solomon Islands women in society and to support the RSIPF to tackle violence in the home.