NGO labels lashing sentence “barbaric”

You would be forgiven for thinking that you’d taken a trip into the 19th century, with news that Supreme Court Judge Robert Shuster sentenced two men to 13 years jail and six lashes for escaping from prison and stealing.

In fact, this sentence took place in November 2009. It was only publicly released via a Freedom of Information request this month, and the case is currently under appeal.

WCCC Coordinator, Ofa Guttenbiel Likiliki has labelled the sentence as barbaric.  “There are questions that have to be asked. Why did it take so long for this to become public knowledge? And what kind of legal system do we have, where outdated methods of violent punishment are condoned. It’s sanctioned state based violence and it’s totally barbaric.”

The Crisis Centre questions the logic behind this punishment, viewing it as a move towards a justice system that motivates compliance by fear of corporal punishment.

“We already see too much violence in our homes and our schools, and sanctioning corporal punishment at the highest level of our legal system will do nothing to reduce violent incidents. Given that we are a Christian country, this just seems absurd” said Guttenbiel Likiliki.


An overwhelmingly empowering process

Comments from WCCC Coordinator, February 2010

Despite the immense challenges that we have faced and continue to face as a new organisation, establishing ourselves has been nothing but an overwhelmingly empowering process. While our overall aim is to eliminate violence against women and children in Tonga through free counselling and support services, we are doing this using a human rights–based approach. We are focussing heavily on women and children in Tonga being agents of change rather than just beneficiaries,  changing from the “helpless in need” approach to the “claimant of justice and human rights” approach.  To enable us to do this more effectively, we will continue lobbying the Government of Tonga to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

In our prevention strategy, we will continue to: raise awareness and teach women’s and children’s rights across the country; support creative ways of self-expression; encourage and work with emerging leaders among young women; and create a pool of human rights and gender equality advocates in Tonga who will shape legislative reform and promote women’s and children’s access to social justice.  It’s definitely going to be an exciting journey for all of us here at the WCCC.

Last but not the least, let me take this opportunity to say malo ‘aupito to all our family and friends who have been hugely supportive of us, and to all those who have so kindly donated and contributed to the establishment of the WCCC – we all own this centre, so let’s make it work!!!

Male Advocates graduate Women’s Human Rights Training

DSCN6473Twenty male participants completed training to advocate for the elimination of violence against women. The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC), together with the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, held Stage II of the Male Advocacy Women’s Human Rights Training from 11–15 January 2010.

The training aimed to increase understanding about men’s roles in preventing violence. Reverend Tevita Havea, General Secretary of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, was the guest of honour. He highlighted the role of religion in eliminating violence. “We, church leaders, have to admit that there is violence in every part of the societies in Tonga and we need to show our support to the centre’s work by using the prevention strategies in our missions in the communities,” said Havea.


“A lot of people quote scriptures and say that it is our culture – this is just an excuse to justify violence. Times have changed and our thinking has to change also.”


The lead trainer was an Australian expert in understanding men’s masculinities, Stephen Fisher, and was accompanied by Shamima Ali, the Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and Chair of the Pacific Women’s Network Against Violence Against Women.

The training was funded by the AusAid Regional, and the AusAid Manager, Debbie Reschke, was the guest of Honour at the closing ceremony.

After completing the training, participants said:

“A lot of people quote scriptures and say that it is our culture – this is just an excuse to justify violence. Times have changed and our thinking has to change also.”

“I thought I was the main breadwinner in the house. Now that I have factored in the real cost of all the housework and important duties, I realise that I am not the breadwinner at all.”

“I look forward to sharing what I’ve learnt with my Kava Tonga group. Men often say put downs or bad things about women. Now I will challenge them.”

The workshop has provided participants with skills to effectively advocate for the elimination of violence against women.

Coordinator of the WCCC, ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, says that six men will be selected from the Stage II training to undergo a pilot of the regional Male Advocacy Handbook in March.

Huge support and donations for the Crisis Centre

In the past few months, donationsthe Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) has been receiving ongoing donations from different departments, organisations and individuals, as well as international support, which contribute to the centre’s work with the survivors of domestic violence and abuse.

People have recognised the importance of the centre’s work to the community and started supporting the centre by donating in whatever way they could. These donations include clothes, food and scholarships for both the walk-in clients and also the clients that temporarily stay at the Mo‘ui ke Fiefia Safe House.

“These great donations and support have really helped us since the establishment of our new organisation and we are grateful for those who have helped us in the area of our work,” said ‘Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Coordinator of the Crisis Centre.

The Coordinator and the staff of the WCCC would like to thank the different organisations, businesses and individuals who have donated to the centre and supported the elimination of violence in Tonga. May God bless you in all your work.

Donations are still encouraged – especially office supplies (e.g. desks, chairs) and canned food for the refuge (e.g. corned beef, tinned fish).

Westpac staff wear white ribbons to say no to violence

DSCN6473Male staff of Westpac Bank of Tonga have committed to eliminating violence by wearing the white ribbon. This marks the first day of the white ribbon campaign which runs until December 10.

General Manager of Westpac Mr Ashleigh Matheson gave his complete support to the cause. “Violence against anyone is not acceptable, and violence against women and children who are vulnerable is especially intolerable.”

This year Tonga has witnessed a record 4 deaths due to domestic violence and over 200 cases of reported domestic and sexual violence. “You’ve got to ask, if there are 200 reported cases, how many more are out there in which women and children are suffering in silence? If it’s going to stop, we have to have a no tolerance attitude” said Matheson.

25 male staff of Westpac took the pledge that violence is preventable, and that violence against women is a crime. The White Ribbon is only for men to wear.

The international White Ribbon campaign marks the 16 days of action against gender violence. Research has shown that domestic and sexual violence happens predominantly to women. 9 out of 10 rape victims are women and 95% of perpetrators of domestic violence are men.

Advocates from the Women and Children Crisis Centre delivered over 1000 ribbons to private and public entities based in Nuku’alofa for their male staff to wear.

“Men hold a lot of the power in our society and their involvement in changing a culture that accepts violence is important. All those who are wearing the ribbon are proud contributors to a happier and safer Kingdom” said ‘Usaia Hemaloto, male advocate at the Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC).

For more details, call Leeanne or ‘Ofa on 222 40 or email or visit our website