Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja joined in observing International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women today by launching a Gender-Based Violence brochure at the Empower Pacific Counselling Centre at Lautoka Hospital.
“Despite global efforts, gender-based violence remains a global epidemic cutting across class, educational levels, race, and religion. The Empower Pacific brochure is a tool for linking women affected by violence with vital counselling, legal aid and health services,” the Ambassador said.
To support community development Fiji-wide, Ambassador Stott Despoja announced $13.4 million in Australian Government funding over the next two years for the Fiji Community Development Program (FCDP).
“Australia’s support for community development through FCDP recognises that all communities thrive when women and girls are free to participate in social, economic and political life without violence or the threat of violence,” she said.
FCDP is Australia’s community development program supporting Fijian civil society organisations like Empower Pacific in delivering vital services to the most vulnerable in urban settlements, rural and remote areas. The Australian Government looks forward to working with the Fiji Government on how the next phase of FCDP can best meet Fiji’s community development priorities.
To date the Australian Government has invested approximately $2 million in Empower Pacific, including $900,000 through FCDP. This assistance included the construction of the Empower Pacific Counselling Centre in Lautoka.
“Empower Pacific provides a unique service in Fiji which is vital for the psycho-social well-being of many Fiji citizens. None of us should underestimate the importance of counselling, especially confidential counselling and supporting the needs of pregnant women,” said FCDP Team Leader Michael Brownjohn.
“FCDP is pleased to have been able to provide funding and other support to Empower to help them to deliver these important services,” he added.
The Empower Pacific Counselling Centre offers specialist counselling and consulting services, as well as counsellor training focused on women, children, sex workers, people with disabilities, people living with HIV and other vulnerable groups.
Since March this year, the Counselling Centre has conducted over 1,200 counselling sessions dealing with gender-based violence, child abuse and attempted suicide.
Empower Pacific CEO Patrick Morgam said the new Counselling Centre provides mothers with a safe and confidential environment to access professional counselling and social services.
“We have optimised the use of the Counselling Centre for gender-based violence, child abuse and related issues that are screened together with the HIV Counselling and Testing Program. Annually, Empower Pacific has over 12,000 counselling clients across Fiji,” Mr Morgam said.
He also acknowledged the support of the Australian Government, Fiji Ministry of Health and local medical services for their commitment to improving the well-being of vulnerable women and their families.