Humanitarians from the Pacific in NZ for conference to improve the lives of vulnerable children.

04 Sep 2023 by World Vision
Humanitarians from the Pacific in NZ for conference to improve the lives of vulnerable children.

This week leaders from the Pacific and South-East Asia are in Auckland to discuss efforts to help children and families in their regions overcome violence, malnutrition and poverty.

The World Vision conference will focus on WOVEN, a five-year partnership between World Vision and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

The programme aims to reach more than 18,000 families in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Laos and Timor Leste by 2025.

It was developed to implement initiatives to advance child protection, nutrition and livelihoods the Pacific and South-East Asia, especially in the aftermath of Covid-19 and associated lockdowns.

World Vision New Zealand National Director, Grant Bayldon, says the WOVEN programme is a prime example of the humanitarian and development sector and the New Zealand Government working together with local communities to improve the lives of vulnerable children in the Pacific.

“The social fabric has begun to fray in many communities in the Pacific and South-East Asia due to the ongoing impacts of prolonged poverty, cyclones, and economic challenges. It’s important for us to be a good neighbour and support the vulnerable children who live in our neighbourhood,” he says.

One of the key successes of WOVEN has been programmes to reduce violence against children.

In Vanuatu, one in three girls experience sexual abuse before the age of 15 and 60 percent of women experience physical and/or, sexual violence in their lifetime.

The WOVEN Men Be the Change Project is working to change these tragic statistics and is partnering with the Department of Corrections to support men to reduce and stop family and domestic violence. Shanna Ligo, who is the Programme Director for the Men Be the Change Project in Vanuatu, says 243 men and 130 women have participated in the programme.

“We’ve seen some wonderful results so far, with fourteen programmes completed. We’ve had feedback from participants and their partners noting an improvement in behaviour and the overall wellbeing of the family. It’s so encouraging to see these programmes making a positive difference,” says Ligo.

She says men who complete the programme are positive about the difference it has made in their lives, with one man saying it has given him a new perspective: “I used to think that being a man was always to be in charge and that everything I wanted, I could have. I never thought about what she (my wife) felt until we talked about it thanks to Men Be the Change.”

The rollout of the programmes in Vanuatu faced challenges earlier this year when the nation was hit by two cyclones which meant resources were diverted to help provide mental health support for families affected by the disaster.

“After the cyclones hit, we provided pastoral care and mental health support to affected families in the two worst affected provinces.

“Our focus was on protecting children and women, as we know there is an increased risk of violence during disasters, and the support was well-received,” adds Ligo.

In the Solomon Islands, the Solomon Islands Ending Violence Against Pikinini (SIEVAP) coalition, is advocating to increase the legal marriage age from 15 to 18 through the “Make it 18” campaign. The coalition includes World Vision, ChildFund, and Save the Children.

World Vision New Zealand’s Head of Advocacy and Justice, Rebekah Armstrong, says one in five girls in Solomon Islands is married before the age of 18.

She says World Vision’s work is focused on ending violence against children and child marriage is a significant part of that.

“We know that girls who are married at a younger age are at greater risk of sexual abuse, domestic violence, depression, and arrested education. It’s important to ensure that there are legal protections to help address child marriage and our Solomon Island partners have made it clear that raising the marriage age is one of the key things we can do to help give girls a better future,” she says.

World Vision is currently carrying out community consultations on the marriage age to contribute to a government request for feedback on a proposed law change.

Bayldon says WOVEN is helping to tackle deep-seated issues that cause vulnerable children to suffer disproportionately.

“These are challenging issues and this conference is a wonderful opportunity to join together with our friends and colleagues from the Pacific and South-East Asia to reflect on what’s working well and what more we can do to make a difference for vulnerable children,” he says.

To find out more about WOVEN visit