What if finance saw gender-based violence as material and paid attention to it, in the same way it does with climate change? Criterion Institute is partnering with Pacific RISE to explore this question as our gender specialist, Kate Wilson explains.  

The vulnerability of Pacific Island countries to climate change has been the subject of significant media coverage and government and donor attention. It is widely acknowledged that climate change presents the Pacific Islands with unique challenges including rising temperatures, sea-level rise, contamination of freshwater resources with saltwater, coastal erosion, an increase in extreme weather events, coral reef bleaching, and ocean acidification.

Climate change is considered a key development risk by donors and governments and in finance as both an internal and external risk by companies affecting all industries, all sectors and all geographies. Financial analysts routinely monitor weather patterns and Governments, industries and companies are actively responding to those risks.

What if we paid attention to gender-based violence in the Pacific in the same way we paid attention to climate change?

Violence against women and girls knows no boundaries. Violence against women and girls takes many different forms. These include intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence, non-partner sexual or physical assault, sexual exploitation and trafficking, and harmful practices such as bride price and accusations of sorcery.

Prevalence of these types of violence is high in the region; in most countries, it is much higher than the global average of 35 percent. Tonga (79 per cent), Samoa (76 per cent), Kiribati (73 per cent), Fiji (72 per cent), Vanuatu (72 per cent) and Solomon Islands (64 per cent).1

This means everyone in the Pacific is touched by this epidemic….Literally everyone.

And…..the costs of gender-based violence are serious and far reaching. The global annual cost in lost productivity, health care, and law enforcement is estimated to be in the trillions. In Australia alone estimates put the cost at AUD$20 billion per year2. In Fiji the cost estimate is F$498 million3. In PNG the estimated cost for just one company was K$3 million or 9% of its total salary bill each year4.

Gender-based violence impacts people’s health, the economy and wider society not just because of lost productivity – it also correlates with broader social instability.

Yet when we talk about gender-based violence in the world of finance we often hear “But I’m not sure how that’s truly material.” (Meaning it’s not important to finance).

We in fact do think that gender-based violence rates are material to finance. We believe that the risks and costs associated with gender-based violence do affect performance of companies in all sectors and industries in the Pacific and the solution is not just to put more women on boards or promote women entrepreneurs.

We believe that conducting gender analysis to better understand gender patterns in economic activity can lead to better investments and the creation of financial products that reflect an understanding of the gendered nature of the world can create new investment opportunities.

So, the question becomes how can analysing gender patterns, especially patterns related to gender-based violence be seen in a similar vein as climate change and how can finance and governments respond?

For example, what if gender-based violence in the Pacific decreased by half over in the next five years? How would one invest differently in the Pacific today if we saw that as a possible future scenario? How does that vision of the future create a different understanding of the risk gender-based violence presents today?

This is a question that DFAT-funded Pacific Investment in Social Enterprise (Pacific RISE) is seeking to respond to.

Pacific RISE is working in partnership with the Criterion Institute a leading US-based think tank in the field of gender lens investing, and Pacific Trade and Invest to explore how we can direct investment capital to strategies to reduce gender-based violence in the Pacific.

To do this work effectively, we see it as crucial to engage directly with those affected by gender-based violence, and individuals and organisations that have worked long-term on these issues. We have been training financial intermediaries and gender specialists in the Pacific to better understand the linkages between finance and gender-based violence and linking them together. We’ve been training stakeholders in the finance world to better understand gender data and trends and use gender data as part of financial analysis. Our investment thesis for the Pacific has been shaped by gender analysis and data on gender-based violence.

As we move forward in 2018 we will create additional tools to support Pacific stakeholders. We will develop a framework for assessing impact and unintended consequences related to gender-based violence, equip intermediaries to look at gender-based violence within their due diligence and create tools for assessing risk in investments around gender-based violence.

As we #PressforProgress, we hope to continue to follow the lead of Pacific gender-based violence experts and women’s organisations, and to work together with financial intermediaries, donors, philanthropists, asset managers, and asset holders to use their power and expertise in a collective effort to direct how finance can be used as a tool to address gender-based violence in the Pacific.

But, to do this we need more of you at the table. We need your help in expanding our networks to include those closest to the fight. Efforts to promote gender equality and address gender-based violence span all of Pacific RISE’s work and is an amazing chance to bring together key stakeholders in the Pacific to tackle this key issue in a new way.

On this International Women’s Day, we’re issuing a call-to-action: walk with us as we push to use finance as a tool to affect change on gender-based violence in the Pacific.

Let’s reimagine the possibilities and amplify existing efforts to address gender-based violence in the Pacific.


1 As quoted in Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (2013). Somebody’s Life, Everybody’s Business! National Research on Women’s Health and Life Experiences in Fiji (2010/2011), p142.
2 Price Waterhouse Coopers (2015), A High Price to Pay, The Economic Case for Preventing Violence Against Women, November 2015.
3 Fiji Times, (2016), Costs and impacts, Monika Singh, Tuesday, March 22, 2016
4 ODI, (2015), Gender Violence in Papua New Guinea, The Cost to Business, Emily Darko, William Smith and David Walker, October 2015.


Featured image courtesy of DFAT (Flickr)