PECC activities were being carried out on schedule up to the end of February. After the East Ambae CAVAW workshop (at Saratamata) in February, I wanted to return home but then we got the covid outbreak. I returned to Lavatu and we were supposed to carry out International Women’s Day in March, but we couldn’t due to the lockdown.
We came to work while Vila was in lockdown every day until the last week of April, and then we had the first community outbreak in Pentecost. Then we went into lockdown too. We were on alert level 3. The outbreak was around Ranwati Secondary School and spread to the Northern parts where the PECC office is located. After consulting with VWC in Port Vila, we agreed to rotate staffing: 2 staff from Monday to Thursday and everyone on Friday. Unfortunately, we all caught COVID during this time.
During the lockdowns, we assisted clients by phone. Women were frightened to come to the office, and there were lots of road blocks around the island constructed by the Chiefs, which made travel very difficult. People stayed at home, and the number of clients reduced during this time.
An example is how we managed was one case, where a woman was hit by her husband and came to the office. We couldn’t keep her at a safe house because of the restrictions, so we advised her to return to her village. The Court Clerk is nearby and we accompanied her and arranged for her to stay with a CAVAW member as a safe house for 3 weeks. When Pentecost returned to level 2 and flights restarted, we helped her to go back Santo. Her children are still with the defendant. An FPO was served by police and they have been requested to take the children so they can be with their mother.
The EVAWG Task Force wasn’t able to meet due to the COVID restrictions, but we were in contact frequently with health staff to ensure that there were referrals during this time. However, a few domestic violence cases seen at the health centre were not immediately referred, because the health staff advised that they needed to test for COVID before seeing PECC. This was not a good situation for the women concerned.
PeCC is located far from the Police Post, and there were difficulties with police responses to cases during COVID. Although we frequently spoke over the phone, which was good, they didn’t come to serve orders and there were delays with FPO applications. Some FPO applications didn’t come at all during this time.