On September 12, 2023, the Safe and Equal Online Spaces – Pacific Cyber Safety Symposium was inaugurated in Suva, Fiji. The event highlighted the growing need to address online safety and the rise of technology-facilitated gender-based violence in the Pacific region. The Prime Minister of Samoa, The Honourable Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, and the Australian Ambassador for Gender Equality, Stephanie Copus Campbell, jointly recognized the dual nature of technology. While it offers vast opportunities to promote gender equality, it can also be a medium for harm, especially in technology-facilitated gender-based violence.
Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV) is defined as the use of technology to control, threaten, monitor, harass, stalk, or intimidate someone. This violence can manifest through various technologies, from phones, social media, and car tracking systems to security cameras, drones, and smart devices.
Prime Minister Mata’afa emphasized the potential of technology to be a solution. She stated, “By uniting as one Blue Pacific, we can harness technology to combat technology-facilitated gender-based violence. This symposium is a platform for sharing experiences, exchanging ideas, and setting priorities to tackle gender-based violence in online spaces and via digital technologies.” Ambassador Campbell echoed these sentiments, highlighting the profound impact of technological advancements on societies. She emphasized the symposium’s role in discussing online safety, setting priorities, and driving collective action across the region.
The symposium, organized by the Pacific Community (SPC) through its Pacific Women Lead at SPC program, in collaboration with Australia’s eSafety Commissioner and supported by the Australian Government, aims to address TFGBV. The event also involves partners like the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). Mereseini Rakuita, SPC Principal Strategic Lead – Pacific Women and Girls, shed light on the dual nature of technology. She mentioned that while new technologies amplify the voices of women and girls, they also give rise to new forms of gender-based violence due to the misuse of these platforms.
The first in the Pacific symposium gathers stakeholders from various sectors to address online safety, particularly TFGBV. The event aligns with the theme of the 67th Commission on the Status of Women and its outcomes, furthering online safety priorities in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. The symposium’s objectives include:
- Understanding TFGBV better.
- Clarifying roles and responsibilities.
- Working with governments on legislation and regulatory approaches.
- Documenting the Pacific’s TFGBV priorities.
The discussions from the event will culminate in a TFGBV Priorities Document.
The Safe and Equal Online Spaces symposium sees participation from a diverse group, including representatives from civil society, Government, academia, the private sector, and regulatory bodies.
About Pacific Women Lead at SPC: Pacific Women Lead is a global commitment to gender equality. The Pacific Women Lead (PWL) at the Pacific Community (SPC) program, termed PWL at SPC, is supported by the Australian Government with over AUD 55 million dedicated to its initiatives. This partnership commits SPC to deliver the PWL program as a foundational element of the portfolio.