The Pacific Prevention Summit was held in Fiji last month where the OFC and representatives were accompanied by more than 100 delegates from across the region to play, pray, learn and engage in effective strategies to end violence.

Oceania Football Confederation and representatives from three member associations were invited by UN Women to attend in recognition of the work done in an effort to end violence against girls and women.

The Summit was hosted by the Pacific Community, UN Women Fiji Multi-Country, and the Pacific Islands Forum, through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership). The event is funded primarily by the European Union, the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, and UN Women.

It was the first time sport had been brought into this powerful space. Social Responsibility Manager in Tonga, Palu Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa was thrilled with the opportunity to meet with government representatives, policymakers and stakeholders to share ideas and learn the way forward.

“The summit was really good for me personally, I have been working in sports development for eight years now, and being able to attend such a high-level event like the Summit alongside some of the national officials and donors is new for us sports people, we finally get to voice to the upper level and be recognised regionally. For me, it is one of a kind,” said Tu’amoheloa.

The Pacific region has one of the highest recorded rates of violence against women and girls globally. Research shows two out of three women in the Pacific are impacted by gender-based violence.

“If we were to compare the type of work we are doing to the government in my country, I don’t think they (the government) have reached the number of people we have reached with our social development programmes,” said Tu’amoheloa.

OFC and the Member Associations reach a combined 30,000 children annually with the Just Play Programme, a football for development programme that promotes play between boys and girls while addressing attitudes that promote harmful gender norms.

The work has been enhanced in 2023 with the addition of This is How We Football, which is an adolescent girls’ football programme, and OFC’s increased efforts to develop a safeguarding system to ensure football is safe for everyone.

OFC Just Play Programme Manager, Lavenia Yalovi highlights that the programmes bring a valuable intersectional approach and will play an important role in Oceania.

“Being a programme manager in the Pacific as a woman, and as a mother we represent This Is How We Football in terms of climbing up the ladder in leadership and getting a voice,” said Yalovi.

“We show other girls and women that there are pathways they can go through, we provide them with values, objectives and sport-to-life skills. We hope the messages we instil in the girls in the programme stay with them so they can become better citizens.”

Yalovi hopes that “we will overcome gender-based violence and there will no longer be a need for projects and summits because young girls and women live freely in the Pacific and in the world.”

These life-changing programmes and activities are made possible due to funding support from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Aid through Team Up, and the UEFA Foundation For Children, with the expert guidance from UN Women Pacific.