02 September 2013

Safe haven for abuse victims of Kiribati

By Karen Allen, UNICEF Pacific Representative
Welcome cake and song by on of the nuns in the women's crisis centre
© UNICEF Pacific/2013/Teannaki

The world can be a cruel place. Women and children in particular are victims of domestic violence and other abuse. We can thank a singing nun in Kiribati that they have a place to go to for help. A group of Catholic nuns runs the Crisis Management Centre, with support from various partners including UNICEF. A clean dormitory, with mattresses on the ground and a communal kitchen, a small yard and a children's room, and, importantly, a room for prayer and counselling make up the crisis centre.

Every night it is a safe haven for about five women fleeing beatings and/or rape. The nuns work closely with the community police, the hospital, local churches and Government offices to make necessary referrals and to follow up the women who decide to return home to spouses or partners who have been warned and who have promised to change their behaviour.

I talked with the singing, guitar playing Sister who told me that to work with abused women and children day and night is challenging, but aside from drawing strength from her religion and prayer, she feels highly motivated by seeing the positive difference she is making. Indeed, she projects an enviable calm and cheerful demeanor, and even gentle humour: "I got a donation of fashionable used clothing from Australia, but it was all such small sizes -- my women need XXX large!"

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