The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch #6


Welcome to the 6th edition of our bi-annual Gender Equality newsletter from UNDP in Asia and the Pacific!

The UNDP Asia Pacific

Gender Equality Dispatch

December 2020


The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Table of Contents

1. Acknowledgement and awareness: the first steps

to ending gender-based violence in Timor-Leste

2. PNG: Now is the time – United for equality in PNG

3. Samoa: Deep dive conversations to end

the violence against women and girls in ‘paradise’

4. A new way of working: Fiji Parliament implements

the Floating Budget Office, including a new briefing

on gender-responsive budgeting

5. Tonga: Digital Transformation for a more inclusive

and resilient access to justice

6. Bhutan: How Bhutan’s GBV pilot prevention

project seeks to be a ‘game changer’

7. Sri Lanka: Addressing SGBV – reaching the

furthest left behind in Sri Lanka

8. Indonesia: Reflecting On the Journey to Achieving

the Gold Gender Seal for UNDP Indonesia










1. “Shedding light on the shadow pandemic:

The link between gender-based violence and

violent extremism”

2. Shifting Sands, Social Media and Strategic

Communications to Enhance Women, Peace and

Security Narratives



The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020



Welcome to the 6th edition of our

bi-annual Gender Equality newsletter

from UNDP in Asia and the Pacific!

In times of a world health crisis, where

the lives of millions have come to a

standstill amid the novel coronavirus

pandemic, for numerous women across

the globe, an interminable lockdown

in their homes has become more of

a threat to their lives rather than a

safety measure. Apart from the rapid

increase in COVID-19 cases, there has

been an upward surge in an alternate

public health crisis of gender-based

violence. As per a report by UN Women,

there is a 30% percent rise in cases

of gender-based violence since the

onset of the pandemic in the Asia-

Pacific region.

Confronted with this two-pronged

problem of COVID-19 and gender-based

violence, in this edition of the Gender

Equality Newsletter, we hope to

highlight the various ways in which

UNDP Country Offices from the Asia

Pacific region are actively engaged in

framing, implementing and executing

gender-transformative programs in an

effort to flatten the curve of this shadow

pandemic of gender-based violence.

For this reason, we are delighted to

present to you the new edition of the

Gender Equality newsletter. In this

volume, we will be featuring stories

highlighting Country Office’s work on

addressing gender-based violence and

the initiatives taken by Country Offices

in the Pacific to implement the Global

Spotlight Initiative in an effort to

address violence against women

and girls.

Inside this newsletter, you will find eight

original articles from UNDP Country

Offices of the region, featuring four

Spotlight countries, Papua New

Guinea, Samoa, Timor-Leste and

Fiji. The stories highlight the country

-level initiatives which are actively

advocating gender-transformative

policies and programs through the

Global Spotlight Initiative, and seek

to put an end to the pervasive problem

of gender-based violence.

We also have the pleasure of featuring

stories from UNDP Country Offices

in Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Tonga,

presenting their projects that are

tackling the issue of gender-based

violence through creative means such

as digitalization of services and the arts.

Finally, we have two blog articles

from the PVE team and N-Peace,

in which they reflect on how harmful

constructions of masculinity is a factor

contributing to VAW and GBV and how

to combat misinformation in WPS online


We hope you enjoy reading these!

Koh Miyaoi

- BRH Regional Gender Advisor

04 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

VPU officer Abelina Ximenes has participated in training to help her enhance her investigation and

case handling skills.

Photo: Maria Lopes / UNDP Timor-leste

The following five articles will present

the initiatives taken by Country offices

in the Pacific to implement the Global

Spotlight Initiative in an effort to

address violence against women

and girls. The Spotlight Initiative (SI)

is a partnership between the European

Union (EU) and the United Nations

(UN) to eliminate all forms of violence

against women and girls (VAWG),

including harmful practices (HP).

It is backed by an unprecedented EUR

500M investment from the EU and aims

at achieving transformational change.

Acknowledgement and

awareness: the first steps

to ending gender-based

violence in Timor-Leste

News headlines from Timor-Leste in

October 2020 carried grim statistics

on gender-based violence (GBV)

in the small island nation. Despite

improvements in public safety since

2007, historical colonial violence

and traditional family-based social

structures have influenced the normalisation

of GBV, especially against

women and girls.

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


Figures released by the Directorate-

General of Statistics show that in 2019

case numbers of sexual abuse of minors

increased five-fold to 80, while rape

cases more than tripled to 55. The

statistics also revealed 28.6% of the

country’s prison population were

convicted of sexual violence crimes 1

The statistics, however, reflect a rise in

reporting rather than an acute rise in

cases, say officers from the Timor-

Leste National Police (PNTL) Vulnerable

Persons’ Unit (VPU), who are on the

frontlines of this critical human rights


The numbers are increasing because

people now understand that any

domestic violence is a crime that has to

be reported,” said Abelina Ximenes (38),

an investigator with the VPU in Baucau.

In November she received training on

investigating sexual assault and child

abuse - supported by the joint European

Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative

and Australian Federal Police (AFP).

Launched in March 2020 in Timor-

Leste, the Spotlight Initiative will

contribute $15 million over three years

to combat GBV, with a focus on three

municipalities – Ermera, Bobonaro and


As a part of its Spotlight support,

the United Nations Development

Programme (UNDP) is supporting

the VPU to enhance its public

communications, case investigation

and case processing procedures and

capabilities. This includes supporting

the construction of safe houses for

victims at VPU offices, increased

referral network awareness materials,

and during Covid-19, personal

protective equipment (PPE) to enable

safe survivor-police interaction.

Under Timorese law, gender-based

violence and sexual assault are public

crimes that must be investigated when

reported, even if a claim is withdrawn.

Bernie McEvoy, a volunteer with

Juventude ba Dezenvolvimentu

Nasional (JDN) who support youth

education around GBV, said that

despite relatively good legal foundations,

awareness of the illegality of GBV

is very low among the male and female

youth she works with.

Abelina Ximenes at the GBV safe house

in Baucau.

Photo: Alex Ray / UNDP Timor-Leste

06 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

“Most young women we spoke to said

‘I don’t like being treated this way but

I didn’t think it was illegal or that there

was anything we could do to change it,’”

McEvoy said.

The UNDP is also facilitating Spotlight

Initiative support for two civil society

organisations – the Justice System

Monitoring Project (JSMP) and Alfela –

conducting legal awareness campaigns

around women’s rights and providing

free legal consultations for survivors of


The nation-wide VPU is predominantly

staffed with female officers. Like

all institutions in Timor-Leste however,

it had to be rebuilt from scratch

since Independence in 2002. Ximenes

considers the recent training as

important to enhance procedures and

professionalism in highly sensitive

cases of sexual violence and abuse.

“I particularly want to learn more about

talking to vulnerable people, especially

children, to help them tell us what has

happened to them,” said Ximenes.

VPU officers will learn skills such as how to communicate and take testimonies from vulnerable groups

such as children.

Photo: Alex Ray/UNDP Timor-Leste

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


“When I was young there were many

cases of domestic violence not being

reported because under Timorese

traditions it was considered as just a

commotion within the family, with no

need to report it,” said Ximenes.

Ximenes explained how current

efforts to combat GBV are entwined in

Timor-Leste’s process of transition to

a democratic state based on judicial

fairness and civil law.

“Our parents experienced violence from

the colonists, both Indonesian and

Portuguese, as an expression of power,

and no one was assigned to solve or

listen to these issues,” said Ximenes.

“Everything was dealt with within the


“Now though, our laws have created

legal procedures for assessing

allegations, which are attempting to

replace practices where individuals or

communities attempt to judge and

punish cases with customary law or

vigilante action. We now have to learn

to respect each other, even within

families,” said Ximenes.

UNDP Spotlight activities will also

monitor the implementation of new VPU

practices and protocols in the field and

will train community police officers on

how to refer cases to the central VPU

offices in each municipality.

Thanks to campaigns such as the

EU-UN Spotlight Initiative and other

GBV actors like the VPU, Timor-

Leste is beginning to see changes

in awareness about gender-based

violence. The UNDP is committed

to ensuring that Spotlight Initiative

activities will reinforce government

messaging about the absolute

unacceptability of GBV in Timor-Leste.

Authored by: Alexandre Ray, Communications

Officer, UNDP Timor-Leste

The predominantly female VPU is receiving

comprehensive case investigation training

supported by the Spotlight Initiative and

Australian Federal Police.

1 )



Photo: Alex Ray/UNDP Timor-Leste

08 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Women participants of the summit took centre stage celebrating the signing of the outcome statement

and recommendation.


Now is the time – United

for equality in PNG

Women of Papua New Guinea (PNG)

jumped to their feet, dancing in

celebration of a milestone achieved,

at a national summit on gender-based

violence (GBV).

Gathered at the centre stage in the

APEC Haus — a culturally significant

new monument built to host world

leaders and summits — a joyous

festivity closely followed the reading

and signing of the outcome statement

and recommendations. Women danced

and chanted.

“It is now time to end gender-based


“It is time for PNG to be united for


Waves of cheers were reverberating in

the APEC Haus on the foreshore of the

national capital Port Moresby.

Ending GBV in PNG now

has a voice

This historic moment involved

the co-chairs of the Coalition of

Parliamentarians Against Gender-based

violence, Governors of the National

Capital District (NCD), Honorable Powes

Parkop, and East Sepik Province,

Honorable Allan Bird who took the

statement to parliament that led to

the formation of the first-ever Special

Parliamentary Committee on

gender-based Violence.

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


With this committee, the journey

towards ending GBV in the country

at a political level will begin. The

Parliamentary Committee will

provide oversight and accountability;

a responsibility that they have not

undertaken in the last 45 years. The

national summit, held from 8 to -10

November 2020, selected the theme,

‘Now is the Time: PNG United for

Equality’. This brought together close

to 750 participants. and represented

the provincial governments, their

respective province’s community

development workers, civil society

organisations, advocates, nongovernmental

organisations and


Led by co-chairs Parkop and Bird, they

went on to say that “there’s no place for

GBV in our community. Everyone has the

right to equality, to be free from fear of

expressing themselves as enshrined by

the Constitution of Papua New Guinea.”

Both of them are vocal in PNG’s

Parliament and in the public arena on

their stance towards GBV.

Ensure the implementation

of better protection for

children and women

PNG’s nationwide digital television

network, TV Wan, Ms Hennah Joku, a

journalist and programme producer,

spoke at the summit’s youth side event

about her ordeal of living in a violent

relationship that lasted for two years.

Ms Joku hopes that this summit will

spur people to take action on this issue

and provide proper support to victims of


However, she said that “there is still a

gap in information, especially with the

young population.” She went on to

say that it is important that they

know about their rights. This includes

strengthening the enforcement process,

providing witness protection for

victims seeking justice and ensuring

that changes are made to better protect

children and women at the policy level.

The outspoken TV journalist has been

an advocate of ending GBV and has

utilised her influence as a TV personality

to highlight the changes needed to

ensure equality for all.

“We need less talk time and more


TV Wan journalist and programme producer,

and GBV advocator, Ms Hennah Joku spoke at the

summit of her own experiences.


10 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

The Summit is a follow up to a series

of meetings in August following the

strategic death of the late Jenelyn

Kennedy, a teenage mother who

was brutally tortured and died. Her

untimely death brought widespread

condemnation on GBV throughout

Papua New Guinea.

Ms Ruth Kissam, the Director of

Development for the PNG Tribal

Foundation, has been personally

involved in the GBV space since 2017.

She has also facilitated a session on

referral pathway status, challenges

and recommendation, “We’ve had all the

numbers of sorcery accusation-related

violence, GBV included, increasing at an

alarming rate. One of the things I really

wanted to see are politicians [who are]

willing to take ownership of the national

GBV strategy,” she said.

Dame Carol Kidu, a former parliamentarian

in the ‘Leading the Change’ session,

highlighted that inequality is an issue

that affects everyone and is the root of

the current high rates of GBV.

She spoke passionately about her

experiences as a parliamentarian and

an advocate for women and girls’ rights.

TV Wan journalist and programme producer, and GBV advocator, Ms Hennah Joku spoke at

the summit of her own experiences.


The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


TV Wan journalist and programme producer,

and GBV advocator, Ms Hennah Joku spoke at

the summit of her own experiences.


The coalition of parliamentarians to

end GBV is a step towards the right

direction. We need to discuss GBV with

every member of parliament in the

country and make sure they take it

back to their District Development

Authority all the way down to their Local

Level Government”.

The answer lies with PNG. We’ve got to

do this ourselves. We do need support,

we need our friends from overseas, we

need our development partners, but the

answers lie within.”

On accepting the outcome statement

and recommendation for Papua New

Guinea’s Parliament, Hon. Powes

Parkop delivered a passionate endnote.

“Our country will not prosper without

women. Women are [the] pillars of our

nation. 45 years on, we have left

women behind, subjected them to so

much violence… tribal violence, street

violence, gender-based violence.

Violence has cost our country so

much, holding our nation back. “We can

make a real difference, to realise the

potential [that] our country is capable

of,” the Governor said.

For more information on the Coalition of

Parliamentarians Against Gender-based

Violence in Papua New Guinea, see:

Authored by: Clive Hawigen, Communications

Analyst, UNDP PNG

Contributions: Laura Ciudad, Project

Manager, UNDP PNG

12 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Photo: UNDP Samoa

Deep dive conversations

to end the violence

against women and

girls in ‘paradise’

Samoa, situated in the great Pacific

Ocean, ticks all the boxes for a tropical

island paradise – naturally beautiful, lush

environment, gorgeous beaches, cool

climate, and mostly safe and


It’s a beautiful place with beautiful

people. But like most ‘paradises’, it

too has its share of problems. Violence

against women and girls is a significant

one for this small island nation.

UN Women findings show that overall,

46% of Samoan women who have been

in a relationship have experienced one

or more kinds of partner abuse.

The most common form of abuse is

physical (38%), followed by sexual (20%)

and emotional (19%). Of the women who

reported being victims of violence, 78%

said they had experienced domestic

violence, and 11% had experienced

indecent assault(1).

These alarming figures caused UNDP

Samoa, in partnership with the Samoa

Spotlight Initiative and the Samoa

National Council of Women (SNCW),

to devise a program intervention

to promote village leadership and

accountability that aims to reduce

violence against women and girls,

and gender inequalities.

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


The Samoan Village Context

The Samoan way of life – fa’aSamoa –

is premised on its rich cultural traditions

and values of communal living. Samoa

has a total population of about 200,000,

with at least half being females. It comprises

of four islands with approximately

300 villages.

These villages are mainly selfgoverning

under the leadership of

the council of chiefs, made up of heads

of families. The village council is

supported by well-defined structures

based on gender, age, status and

capability such as daughters of the

village, wives/spouses of the chiefs

(the women’s groups as a collective

form the women’s committee) and

untitled young men and women.

Despite years of campaigning at local

and international levels, the relentless

and increasing cases of domestic

violence requires a deep dive approach

into sensitive and complex issues from

a participatory lens and envisioning

the future together. Community-led

innovative approaches, embedded

within the cultural and institutional

governance landscape of the fa’aSamoa,

are needed.

A Deep Dive Approach

The national government depends

heavily on this system for village

order, prosperity, cohesion and safety.

More women are now taking up local

governing roles, and the National

Council of Women plays a large part

in this.

Photo: UNDP Samoa

Active since 1953, the SNCW is the

oldest all-women, non-government

organisation in Samoa. It is an integral

influencer in local village governance

systems. It has over 5,000 members

with the capacity to reach the farthest

communities in terms of village

numbers and geographical location.

14 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Photo: UNDP Samoa

In September, the SNCW, with support

from UNDP through the Spotlight

Initiative (funded by the European

Union and the United Nations), hosted a

transformational leadership development

training to end violence against

women and girls. This was for selected

members in 20 rural villages across the

country. The SNCW believes that

creating a cohort of women leaders to

work in their respective villages is the

enabler element that would facilitate

social change for ending violence

against women and girls. The women

were encouraged to work in two to three

village teams instead of individually to

achieve their main goals of lobbying for

village councils and village mayors as

equal partners in addressing domestic

violence, adopt a STOP Violence Against

Women policy, share knowledge and

ideas with their village women’s committee,

and provide community-based

support for at risk/survivors of violence

by connecting them to available


Some of the immediate outcomes are

two villages on the island of Upolu,

which have reflected social transformation

influenced by a strong village-led

women’s movement. The women were

given the equal space to dialogue with

the village council on issues impacting

the peace and security of the village.

Women’s committees are part of the

village council decision-making fora

– normally women have their own

meeting and one person can take the

issues through a nominated chief

representative. For the first time after

the training, the women’s committee

was able to sit with the council of chiefs

during the village council meeting

as opposed to the usual separate


The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


Signs of social transformation

amongst the men leaders have also

been identified. High chiefs (men) and

church ministers spoke strongly of their

support to tackle the issue, acknowledged

violence is a significant problem

in the village and are taking steps to

enforce penalties and establish village

safety committees.

These committees will work with young

people with behavioural problems, and

will also aim to strengthen women’s

leadership roles based on the principle

of inclusion and leaving no one behind.

They will also ensure the introduction

of harsher penalties and enforcement

by the village council to deter physical

and sexual violence, the involvement

of youth and men’s voices to advocate

for support, and for everyone to work

together. The empowerment of women’s

movement organisations through

technical and financial resources that

work at the grassroots as influencers

is critical for ensuring effective and

sustainable approaches that address

behaviour change.

The Spotlight Initiative Training is the

initial platform to begin discussions and

make decisions. UNDP is determined to

fully realize the importance of its role

and core function in raising awareness

of violence against women and girls,

gender-based violence and intimate

partner violence and its prevalence in

Samoa in order to bring an end to GBV.

The deep conversations will have

to continue to ensure there is an

intergenerational solution to domestic

violence. Only then can we genuinely

reclaim our status as an island paradise.

Authored by: Laufaleaina Lesa and Louisa Apelu,

UNDP Samoa



Under the EU & UN Spotlight Initiative Samoa

women became the first ever all-women’s crew to

compete in the traditional longboat racing Fautasi.

Photo: UNDP Samoa

16 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Photo: UNDP Fiji

A new way of working:

Fiji Parliament implements

the Floating Budget Office,

including a new briefing

on gender-responsive


On 25 November 2020, at the inauguration

of the National Consultation for the

Development of the National Action Plan

to Prevent Violence against Women and

Girls, Prime Minister Hon. Voreqe

Bainimarama remarked in his speech,

“It pains me to say that two of every

three women in Fiji have experienced

physical or sexual violence from a male

intimate partner in their lifetime. One in

five women have experienced sexual

harassment in the workplace. One in

three women in Fiji have experienced

physical or sexual violence from a man

who is not their partner and in 2019

alone, 10 women were killed by their

intimate partners.”

The prevention of gender-based violence

must be transformational such

that it improves the health of women

and children, enhances economic

productivity, facilitates educational

attainment, reduces the risks of mental

illness and substance abuse and

accelerates the achievement of the

sustainable development goals among

other benefits. Thus, in response to this,

the Fiji Parliament has worked

extensively to design, execute and

implement a gender-responsive budget

which can drive gender transformations,

monitor the results and can be

combined with evidence-based


The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


The Fiji Parliament continues to break

new ground as they were able to

mobilize 20 (eight male and 12 female)

staff members from across its

departments to undertake the analysis

of the 2020/2021 budget in order to

produce budget briefs under an

extremely tight deadline.

With the investments made by the Fiji

Parliament Support Project (FPSP)

implemented by UNDP since 2014, the

Fiji Parliament is now the only Pacific

Parliament (excluding the Australian

and New Zealand Parliament) that has

the internal capacity to produce these

analyses without the requirement for

additional external support.

The project provides support to the Fiji

Parliament in undertaking its legislative,

oversight and representation functions,

and is jointly funded by the Governments

of New Zealand, Japan and


However, in the spirit of South-South

cooperation and learning, the Staff from

the National Parliament of the Solomon

Islands joined the exercise remotely as

part of their capacity development.

The Floating Budget Office exercise was

also supported by two parliamentary

researchers from the Victoria State

Parliament (Australia) and two

parliamentary researchers from the

Parliament of New Zealand.

Photo: UNDP Fiji

18 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

This year, supporting the decision

made by the Parliament of developing

a specialized capacity to support the

work of Parliament committees, the Fiji

Parliament has invested in research and

committee units which are engaged

in creating gender and climate change

focal points positions; four staff

members in total. In support of this

strategic direction and decision made

by the Parliament, the Project recruited

a gender-responsive budget expert

and a climate change expert, who would

contribute to the in-depth analysis

section of the budget briefs. The gender

and climate change focal points were

assigned to work closely with the two

experts in order to develop the gender

budget brief and the climate change

brief as part of their professional

development. Further one-on-one

professional development support will

be provided by four experts in the last

quarter of 2020.

A budget analysis conducted by

several experts highlight the means

allocated to specific policies by

government, and thus provided a

thorough overview of the executive’s

focus and policy trends to MPs – who

can influence policy making through

their parliamentary oversight function

– and CSOs alike.

A total of 48 budget briefing papers were

produced and shared with MPs ahead

of the Budget Debate week. The key

highlights from the budget analysis

exercise, including the gender-responsive

budget, were shared with CSOs in a

separate briefing. The gender-responsive

budget expert also presented the

result of the gender budget analysis to

the UN Country team at the Spotlight

monthly meeting on 4 August 2020.

Through such strategic efforts, the

Spotlight Initiative is demonstrating that

a significant, concerted and comprehensive

investment in gender-responsive

budgeting can have a lasting impact on

ending violence by making a transformative

difference in the lives of women

and girls and can also make the entire

society more inclusive and sustainable.

Authored by: UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji




The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


Photo: The Tonga Family Protection Legal Aid Centre (FPLAC)

Leveraging digital

transformation to improve

access to justice for

survivors of gender-based

violence in Tonga

Arihi (not her real name) is a single

mother of three children living in a

remote community in the Kingdom of

Tonga. She experienced domestic

violence at the hands of her former

husband and after divorcing him, she

remained wary of his abusive nature

and proximity while working hard to

earn enough to support and raise

their children. It was a difficult time

for Arihi and her family as they felt

extremely uncertain about how to

improve their situation.

Unfortunately, Arihi’s case is not the

only one. A study conducted in Tonga

in 2009[1] revealed that more than three

out of four (77 percent) women have

experienced physical or sexual violence

in their lives by someone, either at the

hands of partners or non-partners.

The study further identified that social

networks surrounding women often

reinforce a stigma of shame around

gender-based violence, with social

norms often incorrectly blaming the

women, encouraging her to endure the


Arihi explained “I could not seek

assistance because I didn’t know who

to ask for assistance and what support

services are available aside from

reporting to the police. My parents were

not supportive of me reporting to the

police. Other people’s views mattered to

them and it would not be good if others

found out about our problems”.

20 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Arihi received an unexpected visit in

her rural community by officers from

the Tonga Family Protection Legal Aid

Centre (FPLAC). The Legal Aid officers

spoke with her and other members

of the community on the legal rights of

citizens and the legal services that they

could offer. Based on that knowledge,

she decided that legal action was the

best way to deal with the situation,

both for her and her children. In this

eye-opening experience, Arihi now

understands that domestic violence is

never the fault of the survivor and

the blame must be placed on the

perpetrator who commits the crime.

The visit by the Legal Aid officers was

a part of the Rights, Empowerment and

Cohesion (REACH) mobile service delivery

programme, coordinated by

the United Nations Development

Programme (UNDP) in partnership with

UN Women as a pilot with funding from

the Australian Government. Through

the REACH integrated service delivery

platform, government and civil society

organizations travelled as a team to

remote communities, conducted

awareness programmes and delivered

various public services directly to

community members at their doorsteps,

including in remote island communities

of Vava’u, ‘Eua and Ha’apai. The REACH

programme has been piloted in Tonga,

Samoa and Vanuatu since 2019,

building on the successes under the

original Fiji REACH project, supported

since 2015 by the Government of Japan.

With support from the FPLAC, Arihi was

granted a Temporary Protection Order

(TPO) and a Maintenance Order under

the Family Protection Act. The TPO has

made her feel safer while the maintenance

order obliges the father to provide

weekly financial contributions to her for

an initial three months to support her as

she continues to raise their three

children as a single mother.

The FPLAC was established as a pilot

project in 2018 under the Ministry of

Justice as a joint initiative with the

Pacific Community (SPC) through its

Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT).

The first of its kind in the Pacific, it

is established to assist survivors of

domestic and gender-based violence by

providing quality free legal assistance.

This year, Tonga has faced the

double-whammy hit of the COVID-19

economic downturn and the impacts of

Severe Tropical Cyclone Harold which

levelled many villages in the country.

Globally, it has been observed that in

the aftermath of natural disasters, violence

against women spikes, which is

why during COVID-19 there has been a

significant increase in rates of violence.

To provide more inclusive and resilient

service delivery, the FPLAC in partnership

with UNDP is developing an online

portal to enable DV and GBV survivors

to access legal information and

reporting mechanisms.

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


experiencing, the FPLAC continues to

strengthen its physical outreach through

the REACH platform, while advocating

for policies and programmes that aim

to make technology more accessible to

marginalized groups.

Photo: The Tonga Family Protection Legal

Aid Centre (FPLAC)

The online portal will enable survivors

to obtain information on relevant laws

and mechanisms, establish safety plans

and directly reach out to FPLAC to report

family violence and other issues

completely anonymously, which is

a critically important factor given the

stigma many women fear if their

identities are revealed. Moreover,

survivors will be able to access the

services remotely, without the need

to travel to and from the FPLAC office

located in Nukualofa, hundreds of

kilometres and long boat rides away

from other major Tongan island groups.

This will be one of the first integrated

legal aid and GBV reporting and

response digital platforms globally.

An earlier study presented that Tonga’s

outer islands have relatively good

internet coverage and women in

communities have been strong

mobile smartphone users.

However, being aware of the digital

divide marginalized groups are

Empowering the DV and GBV survivors

In light of this initiative, Ms Fitilagi

Fa’anunu, Director of the FPLAC said,

“We aim that through the process of

using the digital platform, survivors will

be empowered to make their own safety

plans, access justice and re-establish

their lives,”

To access justice and restore their

human rights, the FPLAC Digital Justice

Support Initiative aims to contribute to

achieving Tonga’s Sustainable Development

Goals with focus on Goal 5: gender

equality and empowerment of all women

and girls and Goal 16: peace, justice and

strong institutions.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of

the victims.

Authored by: Tomoko Kashiwazaki

Fitilagi Fa’anunu - Director of the Tonga Family

Protection Legal Aid Centre (FPLAC).

Andrew Harrington

**Photos credited to FPLAC

Photo Credits: The Tonga Family

Protection Legal Aid Centre (FPLAC)

1) Ma`a Fafine mo e Famili Inc., National Study on

Domestic Violence against Women in Tonga 2009

NOFO ‘A KAINGA (Tonga, 2012)

(Acessed on 13

June 2019)

22 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Photo: UNDP Bhutan

How Bhutan’s GBV pilot

prevention project seeks

to be a ‘game changer’

Innovative approaches that disrupt

business, as usual, are central to

addressing violence against women

and children. Presently, the national

protection systems concentrate

mostly on secondary and tertiary

prevention or response services,

without investments in primary

prevention. This is where the ‘Gakey

Lamtoen’ Project comes in and has the

potential to be a game changer. The

pilot project is working on a communitydriven

approach to address the root

causes of problematic social norms

that lead to GBV.

“Gakey Lamteon”, Bhutan’s Pilot

Prevention Project for GBV, is a joint

collaboration between UNDP Bhutan

and the National Commission for Women

and Children (NCWC).

The project is based on a model, piloted

through the Building Our Future:

Supporting Healthy and Happy

Relationships intervention in Cambodia,

a two-pronged approach, specifically

targeting caregivers and adolescents.

The project recruited adolescents of

around 13-15 years from a public high

school and caregivers who were parents,

guardians or caretakers of adolescents.

Adolescents are crucial to this project

as it is a critical stage of life when

individuals are transitioning from

childhood to adulthood and they find

themselves to be at a vulnerable and

explorative stage, which can influence

their ideas, attitudes, decision-making

skills, behaviours or practices. The

adolescents were engaged in a series of

participatory and experiential workshop

sessions that focused on stress and

coping, gender equality and community

activism and relationship building.

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


Photo: UNDP Bhutan

The sessions began in early 2019, conducted

by community facilitators who

were trained by experts from the UNDP

global office and regional hub. The sessions

take an engaging and educative

approach to enable adolescents to

express themselves frankly and freely.

During these sessions, facilitators

question and challenge gender norms

and stereotypes that enable participants

to reflect on gender biases, discrimination

and power relations which are the

root causes of GBV. Furthermore,

coping and managing stress, which is

increasingly faced by adolescents, were

also included in the sessions.

Similarly, caregivers also participated

in a series of workshops that began

in 2019. The role of Caregivers was

essential as they play an important part

in the lives of adolescents in shaping

their attitudes and behaviours towards

gender equality at home. The sessions

sought to cultivate caregivers to be supportive

and sensitive, and become role

models on issues of gender equality,

positive coping and stress management

strategies, and promoting community


The innovative approach of the

project is the inclusion of social

innovation camps into the project

design. Participants acquired

knowledge and skills on a range of

topics including gender equality and

managing plausible causes of violent

behaviours/ attitudes that will have a

long-term impact in combating GBV.

This acquired knowledge and the skills

were tested and practically applied by

working on social challenges affecting

their community. Consequently, the

community implemented ideas from the

social innovation camps involving the

community at large and worked collaboratively,

as a shared responsibility

to address GBV. This allowed the community

to be drivers for solutions and

change. The adolescents completed an

innovation camp for the first theme that

is Stress Coping and Resilience. The

best idea was an advocacy activity that

involved raising awareness on the influence

of alcohol and drugs on triggering

violence at homes and communities.

Photo: UNDP Bhutan

24 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Students along with facilitators

prepared a skit and performed in the

Thimphu‘s clock tower square, which

received a standing ovation from the

audience. For the adolescents, this was

the first-ever social innovation camp in

which they developed ideas to address

violence in their community.

The backbone of this project is the

facilitators who implemented the

workshop sessions to influence social

norms, attitudes and behaviour. They

joined the project as volunteers from all

walks of life and have become gender

equality champions. The facilitators are

civil servants, dancers, musicians,

artists who try to disseminate what they

have learned from the project not only

to project participants but also in their

professional and personal settings.

The project was halfway through

implementation when it was abruptly

stalled due to COVID-19 in March 2020.

Although Bhutan was quick to adopt all

preventive measures in response to the

pandemic, this lockdown had a major

impact on the continuity of the sessions,

and we were unable to carry on. As

depicted, the pictures are a contribution

by our adolescent facilitators,

participants and caregivers that raise

awareness on the increased household

burden for women, one of them

represent ideas on what gender

equality means to young girls in their

community, another depicts recognizing

the importance of respecting his wife

and how sharing domestic responsibilities

equally leads to a happy family.

The project team will pursue strengthening

and expanding partnerships to

initiate policy intervention in order to

integrate GBV prevention programs

with strategic stakeholders such as the

Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health,

grassroots rights-based CSOs, and

Local Government. Through documenting

our learned lessons, strengthening

capacities and advocacy efforts, the

team hopes that this intervention can

be taken forward in Bhutan within

a comprehensive approach to

addressing GBV that encompasses

responses which support survivors and

hold perpetrators accountable, and

ensures prevention which will assure

that future generations can live a life

free from violence and inequality.

Authored by: Tshering Choden National

Project Coordinator, UNDP Bhutan

Photo Credits: UNDP Bhutan

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


Photo: UNDP Sri Lanka

Addressing SGBV –

reaching the furthest left

behind in Sri Lanka

Devi* who got married at the age of 18

has endured violence at the hands of

her partner for more than 15 years. “I

endured it all. All for my children”, she


In Sri Lanka, there are many women and

girls like Devi* who have experienced

sexual and gender-based violence.

According to the Grave Crimes Abstract

(2019), a total of 1779 women and girls

were victims of rape in Sri Lanka, out

of which 1490 were girls below the

age of 16. The Women’s Wellbeing

Survey (2019) further highlighted that

1 in 5 ever-partnered women have

experienced physical and/or sexual

violence by an intimate partner in their


In addition to this, with the outbreak of

COVID-19 and the lockdowns

imposed, there has been an upward

surge in the number of reported

cases of violence against women

and girls. As victims were confined

to their homes with their abusers,

for many, COVID-19 revealed the

sad reality: home wasn’t safe


To strengthen safe spaces and

existing shelters for women like Devi*,

the United Nations Development

Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka,

stepped in to support emergency

response plans for survivors. Working

with leading Civil Society Organizations

(CSOs) such as Women In Need,

the Women’s Development Centre

and OfERR Ceylon. These initiatives

supported the most vulnerable groups

in 15 Districts of Sri Lanka, to ensure

that no one was left behind.

26 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Over the years, UNDP has made

significant strides in preventing and

responding to sexual and gender-based

violence in the country, targeting it

at structural, relational and individual

levels; thereby enabling greater access

to justice for victims and survivors.

Strengthening links between the state

and CSOs have proved to be crucial,

especially amidst the COVID-19


In close collaboration with the

Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child

Development, through technical and

financial support, UNDP with other

partners has ensured the formulation

and operationalization of a multisectoral

National Plan of Action to

address SGBV – the first of its kind in

the South Asian region. The National

Plan of Action promotes a coordinated

approach among all stakeholders, in

addressing SGBV and builds on the

government’s response to ending

violence against women and girls in

the country.

UNDP also supports complementary

initiatives such as the strengthening

of the SGBV Referral mechanism,

shelter guidelines, legal assistance and

psychosocial support through CSOs; as

well as conducting paralegal trainings,

strengthening legal clinics and antiharassment

guidelines to build dignity

at the workplace.

“Because we explained and shared the

SGBV Referrazl model developed by

UNDP and the Ministry of Women and

Child Development in the district level

network meetings in the last few years,

during the COVID-19 crisis different

stakeholders knew how to direct victims

to us in the correct manner. We

really saw the value of the system,”

says Chandrathilaka Liyanaarachchi,

Program Manager from the Women’s

Development Centre in Kandy.

Adding to this, Ms Kumari Herath,

Centre Manager, Women In Need in

Anuradhapura stated, “the District SGBV

Referral system has enabled us to build

trust, strengthen coordination and

collaboration between state and nonstate

actors at the district level when

responding to SGBV, especially during

the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Significant initiatives have also been

taken by working with the Gender and

Women’s Select Committee in the

Parliament of Sri Lanka by drafting 3

Bills to address discrimination against

women and girls. UNDP has been

actively working with the apex bodies

of the government, supporting these

groundbreaking initiatives that have led

to transformative changes including the

appointment of the first woman Deputy

Inspector General of Police- a first in its


Photo: UNDP Sri Lanka

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


A study was also conducted, bringing

to light, the challenges that women face

in progressing up the ranks in the Sri

Lanka Police. These efforts will also

contribute to ensuring that more women

officers are involved in handling cases

related to SGBV.

Even though it has been 10 years,

since the end of the three-decade

long civil war in Sri Lanka, there

continues to be several military and

war widows in the country facing ‘real’

yet hidden problems of sexual harassment

and sexual bribery. Most often,

sexual exploitation occurs when

accessing services such as applying

for their husbands’ salaries or pensions,

procuring bank loans, certifying

documentation or enrolling their

children in schools. UNDP Sri Lanka’s

Gender and Peace Initiative is its first

joint programme with UN Women,

which focuses on building the economic

resilience of military and war widows,

strengthening their voice and addressing

issues of sexual bribery and


UNDP Sri Lanka continues to build on

its strategic partnerships, expanding

its reach with partners including the

Men Engage Alliance Sri Lanka which

is linked to the global network of NGOs

working to advance gender justice, addressing

gender stereotypes and toxic

masculinities triggering behavioural

change among men and boys. Similarly,

together with the Citra Social Innovation

Lab, UNDP engages with youth to address

cyber violence and SGBV among

youth and young women.

Sexual and gender-based violence is

not just a public health problem but is

a gross violation of human rights and

human dignity.

Devi* who was also supported through

these initiatives says that “after 15

years I finally feel safe. I can now hope

for a better future, not just for my children,

but also for myself”.

UNDP in Sri Lanka is committed to

continuing to work towards eliminating

SGBV, adopting innovative and transformative

initiatives and engaging its

partners within a strengthened national

framework to ensure a better and safe

environment for all women and girls in

Sri Lanka.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of

the victims.

Photo: UNDP Sri Lanka

Authored by: UNDP Sri Lanka

Photo Credits: UNDP Sri Lanka

28 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Photo: UNDP Indonesia participating in the Gender Seal Mission.

Reflecting On the Journey

to Achieving the Gold

Gender Seal for UNDP


The stakes were high, but UNDP Indonesia

had decided to go gold, virtually,

before the ‘medal’ was handed out.

On a recent October day, over 200

UNDP Indonesia staff logged into zoom

with a shiny gold virtual backdrop on

their computer screens, awaiting the

announcement of UNDP’S Gold Gender

Equality Seal.

In a way, the sea of gold screens

reflected the solid teamwork and

commitment among UNDP Indonesia

staff who had joined hands, to earn

the gold certificate.

“I’ve worked in several Country

Offices with commendable teamwork,

but I must say that the UNDP Indonesia

Country Office is unique with its

strong culture of team spirit and

nurturing environment. It heartens

me to experience how everybody feels

like we are on the same ship together

to achieve the Gold Seal,” said Sophie

Kemkhadze, UNDP Indonesia Deputy

Resident Representative.

Following a brief presentation of the

findings — many of which had exceeded

expectations — the results were revealed.

UNDP Indonesia made corporate

history by being the first Country Office

in the Asia-Pacific region to have earned

the Gold certificate.

The result is a testament of careful

planning and collaboration which dates

back to 2015.

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020



“We really had to start from scratch,”

said Astiti Sukatrilaksana, Head of

Human Resources, UNDP Indonesia,

adding that they had to kick-start the

process by holding a series of basic

courses on gender awareness.

Not only did the awareness courses

inform staff who had limited understanding

of gender, but it also ensured a

strong foundation to kick-off the Gender

Seal journey, she added.

Ms Sukatrilaksana is a core member

of the Gender Task Force, tasked with

directing the CO’s gender-inclusive

operations partly in support of the

Gender Seal assessment.

The biggest challenge was addressing

the unconscious gender bias, which is

prevalent everywhere, but being part of

a team that helps to integrate the gender

aspect in every action helped build

a strong common understanding about

gender,” she noted

Being consistent and committed was

also a key factor in the learning process

in various aspects including operations,

programmes, communications,

and partnerships. Guided by the

Gender Task Force, staff understood

the importance of developing more

inclusive programmes, projects and

events, by ensuring to consult with

members of the task force during the

various stages of their work. Their hard

work and focus paid off.

All projects, programmes and events

take gender-inclusion seriously with

women represented in panels and

included as decision-makers in

programme development.

For Gender and Result Officer Yenny

Widjaja, participating in the Gender Seal

process provided an opportunity to learn

and take concrete actions to support

gender equality.

“We used the Gender Seal framework as

the tool and reference for the country

Office on gender mainstreaming,” she





The rigorous process of gender

mainstreaming in all 35 Country Office

projects has helped transform the

way the staff perceive gender issues,

including gender equality and leadership

in all aspects of UNDP Indonesia’s

partnership with the Government and

the people of Indonesia.

The transformation in our office is

remarkable. We have always approached

our programmes and support with

inclusivity in mind, but throughout the

Seal process I’ve noticed that we’ve

become more attuned to put women at

the forefront of our projects,” said Ms

Kemkhadze, adding that conversation

on gender equality was progressively

featured more prominently during all

project board meetings.

30 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

Another staff member, Aghnia Dima

echoed the sentiment saying that

the exercise has evolved into ‘a purpose-driven’

journey.“Once we’ve built

that sense of purpose, we realised that

it’s not about ticking the boxes, but more

about creating an enormous impact

to societies at large, “ said Dima who

works at UNDP Indonesia’s signature

project on SDG Financing, Innovative

Financing Lab.



Ms Widjaja went on to say that “being

creative” in packaging gender equality

messages was key “Participating in

the Gender Seal certification is not only

about ticking a checklist, but also about

motivating all personnel at the Country

Office to own the drive,” she added.

But when push came to shove, the

‘business as usual’ approach was no

longer enough.

Photo: UNDP Indonesia

In 2018, the process hit a couple of

snags; a preliminary assessment found

that some programmatic areas such as

gender leadership in projects lacked a

gender-inclusive component. This called

for the need for more internal advocacy.

There was a time when we struggled to

deliver the message, “ Ms Sukatrilaksana


“We realized that training and workshops

were not enough to build gender

DNA among all staff so we had to be

more creative,” she said, adding that

gender mainstreaming was addressed

through games during national celebrations,

talk shows and screenings of

movies with themes featuring women

in leading roles or were directed by


Building a gender equality ecosystem

in an area as technical and regimented

as operations proved to be a challenge;

especially when it came to nailing down

the right gender mainstreaming initiatives.

However, by building on the best

practices from other Country Offices,

and adapting them for an Indonesian

audience, the team were able to form up

actionable steps to do so. These steps

included providing paternity leave, promoting

safety at work by encouraging

women staff to commute before dark,

and provision of flexible work hours

for staff needing to support families.

Activities in Human Resources included

gender competency interviews, tracking

the completion of mandatory courses

on gender awareness, and ensuring a

gender-inclusive induction programme

among others.

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020



Everyone in the Country Office without

exception actively took part in the

learning process and was made aware

of gender equality.

Office drivers were briefed about the

policies on gender equality in the

workplace with information in Bahasa

Indonesia. Infographics, posters

and announcement on the Sexual

Harassment Help Line were also made

prominent in UNDP vehicles and office


Social media consistently streamed

gender champion stories and

graphics. Speeches and press releases

were liberally peppered with messages

empowering women and to work

towards removing the legal, social

and economic barriers they face. The

office also reached out to the youths

with short videos using key influencers

such as female athletes and singers.

In Procurement, the office promoted

the use of prevention of sexual

harassment clauses in tender documents,

promoted a gender-balanced

evaluation panel and provided training

on gender mainstreaming for procurement

of external vendors. In Information

and Communication Technology, gender

choices were added to online forms: a

gender dashboard was included in the

system and prefixes in the column were

replaced (from Mr/Miss/Mrs to Men/

Women). This thereby creates an

inclusive gender-diversified process

for users.

In depth discussions with operations team on

gender equality as part of the Gender Seal


Photo: UNDP Indonesia



The disruption caused by the COVID 19

pandemic gave the Office renewed

impetus to pursue the Seal.

According to Christian Usfinit,

Team Leader of the Resilience and

Reconstruction Unit, the Gender Seal

process was particularly useful during

the COVID-19 pandemic in making sure

that the Country Office response

addressed challenges faced by

vulnerable communities including


The knowledge gained over the years

has certainly contributed to the way we

have responded to this situation and will

inform future projects too,” he added.

The Pandemic is also a reminder for

staff that the Seal is not the end of the


32 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

The Gold Gender Seal is not just a

one-time achievement, but it is a

recognition [of] a multi-year effort by

our office to promote gender equality,

women’s empowerment. This must

remain a continuous process for years

to come,” said Procurement Analyst

Martin Stephanus Kurnia.

“Nationl Project Manager, Baiq Dewi

Krisnayanti, said she would continue

using the Seal as a reference point on

gender mainstreaming work, “The Seal

is a framework that can be used as a

guide for project-level [work] looking to

improve gender equality by identifying

gaps in their current sector and taking

concrete steps toward implementing

sustainable change.”

Photo: UNDP Indonesia

The Seal was a collective effort from

staff at the Country Office, with support

and encouragement from the Regional

Bureau for Asia and the Pacific. While

UNDP Indonesia staff have resumed

their daily tasks and the glitz of the gold

screens may fade away, the spirit to

keep ‘no one left behind’ continues —

even stronger.

Authored by: Ranjit Jose

Edited by:

• Tomi Soetjipto, Communication Specialist

• Sophie Kemkhadze, Deputy Resident


• Astiti Sukatrilaksana, HR analyst

• Yenny Widjaja, Gender and Result Officer

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


Photo: Christian Chen, Unsplash

Blog: “Shedding light on the

shadow pandemic: The link

between gender-based

violence and violent



As the COVID-19 pandemic has

launched many of us into completely

new realities and ways of living,

something that has been a

dependable source of comfort to

me is finding solace in my apartment.

Despite the changes happening around

me, my home – decorated with a Banksy

poster, glossy printed photographs of

friends and family, and colourful pillows

from Laos- is somewhere I can find

familiarity, security and ease.

But not everyone is lucky enough to

have this sense of safety at home.

For many women around the world,

restrictions on movement and

lockdowns resulting from the

pandemic mean that being at

home brings them in even closer

proximity to their abusers. The very

place that you are meant to be the

safest from exposure to COVID-19 is

instead, leaving them vulnerable to

even more danger and harm. Something

that has really struck me about

the pandemic is how sexual and

gender-based violence (SGBV) is so

often seen as a private matter. There

has been a lot of media coverage calling

for a “ceasefire” to the shadow

pandemic, which often positions

intimate partner violence and SGBV as

domestic disputes rather than having

their basis in broader gender inequality.

34 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

I see gender-based violence (GBV) and

violence against women (VAW) as a

symptom of a much wider societal

issue that has far-reaching implications

for conflict and violence more generally:

harmful constructions of masculinity

and gender.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we

have seen enormous spikes in levels of

violence against women and girls within

Asia and around the world, but we have

also seen increases in factors that are

known contributors to violent extremism

such as the spread of disinformation,

human rights challenges, and increased

online recruitment. These different

forms of violence are regarded as being

the result of very different factors. But

what if there is a factor underlying both

types of violence that links them more

closely than we might think?

Recently, more light has been shed

on how harmful constructions of

masculinity and what it means to

be a man are influencing violent

extremist radicalization and recruitment.

This made me think about why

we aren’t speaking more about how

harmful masculinity is a factor

contributing to VAW and GBV. A recent

report by UNDP and UN Women found

that the social norms, attitudes and

structures that normalize gender-based

violence also contribute to the violent

conflict and extremism. The research

outlined that sexual and gender-based

violence (SGBV) can actually serve as

a predictive indicator for incidents of

violent extremism and terrorism.

Rather than being viewed as unconnected,

violent conflict and violence against

women should be viewed as part of a

continuum. The impact of harmful

gender norms and constructions of

masculinity in the context of conflict

prevention and peacebuilding is still a

relatively under-researched area. But we

have seen through the Conflicting

Identities study that these harmful

notions of what it means to be a man

can prescribe violence as a way of

achieving control, honour, and

power. More research is needed in

other international development sectors

to see how harmful gender norms may

be undermining progress.

If we can better understand the social

norms around masculinity and

power that contribute to both sexual

and gender-based violence and violent

extremism, we can better understand

and tackle the harmful gender norms

that contribute to both forms of violence

and build a future where everyone can

feel safe at home and in their


Authored by: Isabella Caravaggio, Community

Engagement Coordinator (Preventing Violent

Extremism, UNDP

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


Shifting Sands, Social

Media and Strategic

Communications to

Enhance Women, Peace

and Security Narratives

We are all born with an innate ability and

need to communicate. This inalienable

trait is essential to distributing lifesaving

information, and cultivating

shared values. All of this is not new,

but like many aspects of daily life, its

relevance has been enhanced by the

proliferation of social media and

digital technology. As development

practitioners, we need to ask ourselves

if we are keeping up with the speed at

which new discourse and language is


Women, Peace and Security (WPS) is

an agenda that is not easily recognized

in public imagination. Its pillars are

broad: ranging from prevention and

protection of women and girls from

sexual and gender-based violence and

discrimination, to encouraging their

active participation in recovery and

reconstruction in conflict-affected

regions. With such a broad mandate,

it touches on thematic portfolios

varying in range within SDG 5: Gender

Equality and SDG 16: Promotion of

Just, Inclusive and Peaceful Societies.

Twenty years since the adoption of the

WPS founding United Nations Security

Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325,

much remains to be done for the

effective implementation and advocacy

of these pillars.

36 The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,

the network largely engaged in

responses to the rise of disinformation

which have an impact on not only health

security, but risk undoing progress on

peace and security overall, and the work

of women’s networks in prevention of

conflict. The initiative has recorded

over 53,000 direct beneficiaries to

programming in some of the most

remote security contexts.

Central to implementation of the

agenda, is guaranteeing that its

communication is clear, concise, and

far-reaching; ensuring that those in the

most vulnerable peace contexts are not

only beneficiaries of the agenda, but the

critical actors in driving it forward.

To date programmes such as UNDP’s

flagship N-Peace Initiative, which

operates in Afghanistan, Indonesia,

Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines,

and Sri Lanka, have primarily

focused on balancing the demands of

implementation and advocacy of the

WPS agenda. Our social media reach

has recorded over 43 million Twitter

deliveries with over 8 million users

engaged. In a world of misinformation

and disinformation, the members of

the network engage in social media

advocacy to retain the social cohesion

gains made in their communities, and

counter harmful gender narratives on

women’s leadership.

The N-Peace Network, with support

from the Government of Canada,

successfully reprogrammed the civil

society component to support the

UNDP Country Offices peacebuilding

and governance efforts and shifting

priorities, in the face of the pandemic

and other complex social cohesion


The proliferation of the Internet as a

tool to share information has changed

our concept of advocacy. The spread

of mis- and disinformation on online

platforms has shifted our conceptions

of traditional advocacy, and requires

us to rethink and re-strategize how we

communicate peace challenges to the

broader public. Of note, the internet

age has had a profound impact on

public discourse around women

in positions of power, with women

parliamentarians and peacebuilders

alike reporting increased scrutiny

over their perceived capacity to lead.

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


In order to better understand, the

different push and pull forces related

to gendered misinformation in online

spaces, N-Peace has partnered with

media curation organization, Creative

Migration to run a series of strategic

communications experiments to

test the messaging of the women

peacebuilders and gender champions

who form the network. Over the next

3 months, N-Peace will be sharing

WPS messages directly produced by

members of the network on different

platforms, with the aim of identifying

gaps in advocacy, and clearly identifying

a path to combat misinformation

in WPS online spaces.

As UNDP, our mandate includes

the effective communication of the

sustainable goals, and cultivation of

the whole-of-society approach to

support populations and governments

alike in achievement of these goals. By

implementing a triangulation strategy

to communications, we hope to go a

step further and ensure that the work

of the women peacebuilders on the

ground is provided just visibility and

action - looking beyond 2020 to the

future of Women, Peace and Security

and its full realization.

Authored by: Belinda Hlatshwayo,

Women, Peace and Security Coordinator

UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

The UNDP Asia Pacific Gender Equality Dispatch November 2020


Contact us

Koh Miyaoi - Regional Gender Team Leader

Kimberly Maldonado - Gender Equality Regional

Project Coordinator

With special thanks to Adwitya Taneja, Linda

Olango, and Ria C. mobilized through UNV’s Online

Volunteering service for supporting the editing

process of the newsletter.

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