According to Ms Marie Maddison, WUTMI co-founder and adviser, this dream had been 10 years in the making: “Providing protection and spurring empowerment from within, outside, and around is the purpose of a complementary and supplementary violence against women project such as this one. We’ve been aspiring to a program like this for the women of the Marshall Islands for at least 10 years.”
Ms Kathryn Relang, WUTMI’s Executive Director, says the service can be accessed by all women and girls: “For many years we’ve pondered the idea of establishing such a service. When we talk to women, survivors or not, a place to go to for assistance is what they ask for. We are very happy to announce that this door has opened for our mothers and daughters and that we can better attend to their needs, give them hope, and most importantly get them to safety.”
Weto in Mour (A Place of Life): Violence Against Women and Girls Support Service opened on 11 January and is the first service of its kind in RMI. The services are free, confidential, women-centered and prioritises the safety of women and girls who are experiencing violence.
Survivors of intimate partner violence are expected to make up the majority of the client group, due to the high rates of intimate partner violence perpetrated by men. The service encourages women and girls who have experienced other forms of violence such as sexual abuse, trafficking or sexual exploitation, or forced marriage, to also contact Weto in Mour for support.
Another major feature of the service will be assisting women to access the police, which is something women raised as a challenge during the consultation phase of the program. WUTMI and the Marshall Islands Police Department have agreed on a joint working protocol, formalised in a memorandum of understanding between Weto in Mour and the police Domestic Violence Prevention Unit. This will strengthen collaboration between the two organisations and improve survivors’ experience of reporting incidents of violence to the police.
“We are looking forward to working closely with Weto in Mour to support victims of violence. We think this collaboration will improve women’s experience of reporting violence to the police, and ultimately result in women and girls being safe,” stated Captain Mercyba Balos, Officer in Charge of the National Police Domestic Violence Prevention Unit.
The first phase of the service reflects many of the recommendations made by women and professional stakeholders consulted by WUTMI on the design of the service during 2015.
“Last year, we met with 188 women from six atolls to find out what they wanted from a service that supports women who have experienced these types of violence. We heard many painful stories of the violence women are experiencing and we feel confident that women want this service because of the things they had to tell us. From them, we learned that the number one thing that would help women experiencing violence was assistance to pay for transport, food and other important items to help women to leave the situation if they want to. So now we are providing that service to women,” explains Ms Lilly Samson, Weto in Mour’s Program Coordinator. “Now we know that there is a place that women and girls can go to tell their stories, and also have the feeling within themselves that they are safe.”
An official launch of the service will take place in the next few months, and work continues on the design of the full service to be expanded throughout the outer islands.
Weto in Mour can be found at the WUTMI office and is open from 8:30am – 12.00pm and 1.00pm – 4.00pm weekdays. Anyone who has any questions about the service or violence against women and girls is encouraged to contact the service Ms Lilly Samson, Program Coordinator – Telephone: 625-4296 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.