Ending Violence against Women and Children in Papua New Guinea: Opportunities and challenges for collaborative and integrative approaches

Originally published
View original


Executive Summary


While the fields working to end VAC and VAW have largely developed separately, recent reviews and analyses of large datasets have identified multiple intersections between VAC and VAW including: co-occurrence, shared risk factors, similar underlying social norms, common consequences, intergenerational effects, and the period of adolescence as unique period of heightened vulnerabilities to both types of violence. These intersections suggest that collaboration between the sectors is essential to a more effective prevention and response. Integration of certain aspects VAC and VAW prevention and response across services, programmes, and policies may also be advantageous.
However, there are key areas of divergence between the traditional approaches in the VAC and VAW fields that have created challenges to collaboration and may suggest some disadvantages to fully integrative approaches. To date there are no evidence-based or widely accepted integrative models.
This multi country study, commissioned by UN Women, UNICEF and UNFPA, explored existing examples of collaboration and integration of VAC and VAW policies, services, and programmes, as well as challenges and future opportunities in the East Asia and Pacific region, with a focus on four countries – Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Viet Nam.

Key research questions

This research initiative sought to answer following overarching questions through dialogues and interviews with relevant stakeholders in each country:

  1. What are the existing VAW and VAC policies, action plans, programmes (prevention) or services (response/support)?

  2. What are some examples of policies, action plans, programmes, or services where there is some evidence of VAW and VAC integration (i.e.: addressing both VAW and VAC at the same time)? Include any efforts to try to develop cohesive strategies or plans or collaboration.

  3. How do VAW-focused and VAC-focused stakeholders collaborate or interact? How do donors drive the VAW-VAC agenda?

  4. What are the areas of tension between VAC and VAW work? How do various stakeholders address areas of tension between VAW and VAC?

a. Under what circumstances are boy-children accommodated in places of safety?

b. How are adolescents’ complex needs met and rights protected?

c. How are mothers viewed and “processed” in VAC cases?

  1. What are some opportunities within the existing policies, action plans, programmes or services where integration and/or collaboration could be introduced or enhanced?

Key findings

Violence against children (VAC) and violence against women (VAW) affect the lives and welfare of millions of people around the world. Women and children in Papua New Guinea suffer high levels of violence.
The multiple negative sequelae of this violence can be long-lasting throughout the lifespan and across generations as well as impacting on individuals, relationships, communities, and broader society.
Agenda and priorities • There are no reliable national or provincial prevalence data nor systematic, cohesive administrative data on either VAC or VAW available in Papua New Guinea.

• There is heavy reliance on donor funding for VAC and VAW services and programming and therefore much of the VAC and VAW agenda is driven by donor priorities.

• It appeared that capacity building and resources from international donors or organizations were seldom sustained in various types of VAC and VAW services or programmes.

Government, legislation and policy

• There is no policy or legislation that takes an integrative approach. The Family Protection Act 2013 (FPA) is the primary VAW legislation and the Lukautim Pikinini Act 2015 (LPA) focuses on child protection legislation.

• Despite many of the same government department representatives serving on VAC and VAW-related committees or commissions, there seems to be little collaboration or efforts to integrate the work on these two large and complex issues.

Access to justice

• The Village Courts are tasked to maintain peace and order in communities primarily through mediation. The majority of VAC and VAW cases are heard at District and Family Courts. Very few survivors seek legal assistance in order to pursue cases in the formal justice system.

• Survivors can apply for protection orders; however, beliefs around men’s entitlement to their wives as property is a hindrance to survivors seeking this judicial remedy.

• The police established Family and Sexual Violence Units approximately a decade ago but they are not yet established in all provinces.

These Units will see both VAC and VAW survivors and some officers from these units have received training in interview techniques for child survivors; however, some officers may still act more in accordance with their personal beliefs and dominant social norms than with a human rights approach.

Response and support services

• The referral directory for VAW and VAC services needs to be updated which presents a key opportunity for an integrative approach to develop a cohesive document for both VAC and VAW services.

• Family Service Centres are one stop crisis centres offering free services for VAC and VAW survivors and are usually based within hospitals but some are run by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). There are only 15 such centres in the country and most operate only during regular business hours so their reach is limited. They provide medical and social work services as well as referrals to safe houses.
There is no formal or protocol-driven integrative approach to services of the centres but rather such would be provided on an ad-hoc basis depending on the reports of the presenting survivor and the approach of individual service providers.

• There appears to be a critical gap in ensuring linkages to care for both VAC and VAW survivors as well as few specialized skills necessary for VAC cases. Most skills are gained through onthe-job experience.

• Women survivors are encouraged to seek shelter with extended family. Only if such accommodation is impossible will service providers try to find placement in a safe shelter facility. Safe houses will usually only accommodate young children of women who seek shelter at the facility and older boys are accommodated only on a case-by-case basis.
These safe houses are primarily run by NGOs or faith-based organizations. There do not appear to be any integrative approaches to VAC and VAW within shelters.

• Humanitarian emergencies have led to coordinated and joint responses for VAC and VAW, but this work had not been pursued outside of the emergency context.

Prevention programming

• Awareness-raising and communication campaigns appear to be the most common approaches to both VAC and VAW prevention though there were few examples of integrated VAC-VAW prevention work. It should be noted that more capacity in effective, evidence-based prevention programming is needed because research has shown that awareness raising alone is ineffective in prevention of violence against either women or children.

• There were few rigorous evaluations available in order to understand the impacts of prevention programmes so future prevention programming should invest in high quality monitoring and evaluation to understand the changes, impact, and process of change of these efforts.

• Promising evidence-based strategies have not yet been expanded or scaled up and additional pilot projects are currently being planned to adapt international models that have proved to be effective for Papua New Guinea context.


• Invest in collection of good quality national and provincial violence data for VAC and VAW through prevalence surveys to support datadriven strategies and decisions for policy, services, and programming.

• Invest in evidence-based prevention programming that addresses the underlying drivers of both VAC and VAW. These programmes should have strong monitoring and evaluation systems to understand the contributions they are making to meaningful violence prevention.

• Invest in sustainable capacity strengthening and support to service providers to improve the quality of care available to VAC and VAW survivors.

• Given the service providers’ workload, nature of work, and their own traumatic experiences, provide mental health support to these frontline responders in order to improve and sustain services for VAC and VAW survivors who present for care.

• Fully update the referral directory in an integrative way. This approach may provide the initial framework for effective collaboration for VAC and VAW case management and services.