4 Dec 2013

Desperation leads Vanuatu women to carry knives in self-defence

6:03 pm on 4 December 2013

A women's advocate in Vanuatu says women are resorting to carrying kitchen knives as a way of protecting themselves outside their homes.

Police have been investigating the death of a man in Port Vila on Thursday night following an alleged stabbing by a woman he was said to be following.

Jenny Ligo of the organisation Women Against Crime and Corruption told Sally Round it shows women are desperate.

JENNY LIGO: They feel that enough is enough and they are desperate to protect themselves. We feel sorry for the dead or the families that they lost their son, but at the same time this girl, I know it's not right for her to do it, but she has no choice. She has to protect herself.

SALLY ROUND: I understand you made a survey in Port Vila immediately following the killing - what did you find from the survey and what was the purpose of the survey?

JL: Actually I made some phone calls around to some women. I wanted to find out their views on this. Some women, yes, I must say that they hold weapons and some of them hold knives. And this is because they feel that there's nothing that could protect them. This is very serious.

SR: This was a small, informal survey that you did, and you found that women were taking knives with them when they went. What? Carrying them in their bags when they went out?

JL: Yes. And this has been going on for a long time. Some of them, they have their own special knives for certain things. For example, when they're called to a function, if they need to cut a cake or something. But one of the main reasons they hold a knife is for their protection. The ones they hold are not bushknives, but just small knives that we use in the kitchen.

SR: So are you worried about women carrying these knives?

JL: For me, I'm not worried. I'm not worried for women to carry knives because if I worry then I have to find another alternative. For example, in other countries they use spray. In Vanuatu we don't have such. If we want to help women, if we want to reduce violence against women, we have no choice. And every time we march the street, we hear speeches starting from the prime minister, from the women's organisations, but at the end of the day there's nothing that can help women.

SR: Are you encouraging women to carry some sort of weapon to defend themselves?

JL: I don't want to encourage it, but I will not say that I will stop the women, because if I told them not to carry knives, then what is the alternative that I can give? I don't have it.

Jenny Ligo says there are many programmes to stem violence against women in Vanuatu but it is time now for the chiefs, churches and youth to step up and really tackle it.