Speak out on zero tolerance to rape and sexual assault

In this month’s newsletter we have dedicated a section to rape and sexual assault in the hope that it will raise awareness on its severity and encourage you to speak out on zero tolerance to rape and sexual assault, help out victims and survivors you may come into contact with and show your support by passing this newsletter to as many friends and family in Tonga as you can.

Rape is an act of violence; it involves asserting control over another person and taking their power from them.

Rape and sexual assault can happen to women from two months old to ninety years old. Global statistics tell us that 98% of rape and sexual assault is committed by men. According to previous accounts of rape, rapists chose women based on their vulnerability, not on their physical appearance.  Rapists use a person’s sexuality against her will. Rape is most often a premeditated crime; IT IS NOT about men who cannot control their sexual desires.

It is also wrong to think that rape and sexual assault is committed by strangers who jump out of bushes or wait in dark places for their victims. Over 80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

The WCCC believes that, of all the crimes reported in Tonga to the Police, the most underreported crime — by far — is Rape and Sexual Assault.

We believe at the WCCC that this is because of the many myths surrounding rape and sexual assault as well as the processes and procedures of reporting which can be a total discouragement to many young girls and women in Tonga.

There needs to be safe spaces in our police stations, hospitals and NGO service providers to ensure that survivors will be given access in the most efficient and effective manner.


World class comedy supports WCCC

A 1,700 Pa’anga cheque was presented to the WCCC to support their work eliminating violence in Tonga. The proceeds were raised from a comedy show – featuring World class comedians Vaughan King, Ben Hurley and Steve Wrigley held over three nights at the Shooters Sports Club.

The comedy nights were arranged by  Sione Moehau of the New City in association with the Buck Jones Entertainment. As Comedian Steve Wrigley presented the funds, he stressed the importance of supporting organizations such as the WCCC and that there were happy to know that there was a service provided for women and children survivors of violence in Tonga.

“We are very humble that we were identified to receive the donation however the service and support that we provide for victims of violence is critical for this type of work to continue”, said WCCC Coordinator ‘Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki.

First awareness program at Tonga High School

 7 staff members from the WCCC conducted an awareness programme to over 1000 students at Tonga High School. The staff spoke on services that the WCCC provide including community education, counselling, research & information communication, male advocacy and the safe house (fale hufanga) for temporary shelter.

Various issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape to name a few were presented during the awareness programme. Sexual harassment is the most common type of abuse that is witnessed in high schools today and was of particular interest to the female student’s attention.

The awareness programme was informative and relevant for teachers and students, “We had several female students approach us thanking us of our support services along with that they are grateful to know that there is a centre here in Tonga that supports and helps women” said WCCC Research Officer Luisa Samani said after the program.

The centre is continuing to assist a number of female students with their school assignments related domestic violence. “Now we know where to get information regarding domestic violence as well as different forms of abuse”, said one of the students.

WCCC staff gain knowledge and skills to make a difference

 Two staff from the WCCC attended a one month Regional Training Programme in Suva, Fiji. ‘Asela Sauaki, the centre’s Community Educator and Sela Sausini Tu’ipulotu, the Safe House Carer participated in this training which included over 40 participants from around the Pacific, PNG, Vanuatu, Solomon Is, Kiribati and Fiji.

The month long training was facilitated by the coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) and with the help of their staff and guest speakers from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)  and the Regional Rights Resource Team.

“It was a great opportunity for us to attend this very useful and enlightening training. Truly this training has given us so much information, books and resources that really help us in the area of work”, said Sauaki.

This training covered gender sensitivity, raising awareness on gender based violence, basic counseling skills, campaigning, advocacy and lobbying skills, international human rights instruments, research, data collection and analysis, legal literacy, HIV / AIDS and Women in conflict situations.

“This training has really driven me to understand how important women are, and why we are striving for women’s rights, why we are working towards all forms of discrimination and violence against women, why we need equality” said Sauaki.

The centre would like to acknowledge its sincere thanks to Ms. Shamima Ali, Coordinator of the FWCC for this great opportunity to include the WCCC staffs in the training and all the other support of the FWCC through different ways.

‘Women need to be treated with respect just like any human. Men and women can stand together, and work for the rights of women no matter how hard and how bitter it is to go through but we believe in us that we can make a change”, said Tu’ipulotu.


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Taking on the challenge


Can you imagine your average Tongan male responding as an advocate for women’s human rights to sexist jokes at the kava circle, or writing letters to the editor on issues that challenge the negative way society thinks and behaves towards rape and sexual assault cases, or simply accepting his wife or girlfriend as an equal and genuinely believing that in God’s eyes, we are all equal?

Seven Tongan men have taken on this challenge as Male Advocates on women’s human rights following an intensive seven-day training with 30 other Pacific men at the Stage 3 Male Advocacy Training at Pacific Harbour last week.  The Male Advocacy program is an initiative of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) and has been implemented in several Pacific Island countries including Tonga.

As the Coordinator of the Women and Children Crisis Centre in Tonga (WCCC) it’s been amazing seeing how much and how far our Male Advocates have come.  It was a bit of challenge at the first two stages, but I think what stage three has shown us is that with time and focused commitment using a learning methodology that uses women’s lived realities and women’s human rights as the foundation for encouraging the shift-in-thinking is really beginning to work – I know that there are many other programs out there that looks at how men and boys can get involved in eliminating violence against women, however what I have identified with the Male Advocacy program is that it really challenges the men to use effective communication in their advocacy that must first and foremost use a gender analysis and really pushes the men to the extreme limits at times especially when looking at their very own backyards, their day-to-day dealings with their own family members and negative practices that have become so common that its blanketed by using culture and tradition as an excuse – and that’s what I like about this program is that it challenges, challenges and continues challenging.

At the end of the seven day training each of the Male Advocates presented a fifteen-minute presentation on any topic they decided was relevant to what they had learnt from Stage I through to Stage III.  The following gives a rundown of the topics covered by the Tonga Male Advocates:

·         What the role of a Male Advocate should be; in the home, the community, the church and the country
·         God made Men and Women as Equals
·         How some Cultural Practices discriminate against women in Tonga – using the role of the Tou’a (the female serving the kava)  in the Kava Circle and the cultural practice of the ‘Api (proving the bride’s virginity) in the traditional Tongan ceremony)
·         How the current Land Tenure System and Legislation discriminates against women and maintains an inequality between men and women
·         How I am going to use the tools, skills and experiences that I have gained as a Male Advocate back in Tonga
·         Women and girls are not the possession, objects and property of men
·         The importance of Male Advocacy in Tongan society

At the end of the presentations, the Male Advocates agreed that the most important outcome for them all, was that they internalized what they had learnt and that what this meant for them individually was that Male Advocacy starts from the heart and from the heart the passion to effectively communicate their advocacy on women’s rights no matter where they are, whether it be in their homes with their children and wives, with their girlfriends, their friends, in the work place, at church, at community village meetings OR simply just believing that men and women are equal – sometimes this can be the toughest challenge!

The seven Male Advocates from Tonga, ‘Usaia Hemaloto (WCCC Male Advocate), Savelio Lavelua (Salvation Army, Drug and Alcohol Team), Rev. Misinale Paea (Church of Tonga), Sio Tuiano (Kolomotu’a Town Officer), Viliami Filimoeahala (Ma’ufanga), ‘Apolosi Fangalua (FWC Youth), Tito Kiuvalu (Ministry of Justice).

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