“Streets of Tonga are safer than some homes” Police Commander 

NUKULOFA, TONGA: In an address to a father and son prayer breakfast to mark International Day Against Violence Against Women, Police

Commander Chris Kelley pointed out that Ministry of Police crime statistics indicate that the streets are safer than some people’s homes.

The International event is White Ribbon Day, which acknowledges the role of men in preventing violence against women. All men who wear the
white ribbon are invited to make a pledge to actively discourage Violence Against Women. It is also the first day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women in which a series of important dates are celebrated to promote human rights for all.

“It is time to end the silence on this issue” said the Women and Children Crisis Centre Male advocate ‘Usaia Haemaloto, “it is clear
that there is a need for a change – it is time to promote healthy and equal relationships, and a home environment that is safer than the

Many of the services involved in eliminating Violence Against Women were in attendance at the prayer breakfast, including the Ministry of
Health, the Department of Women’s Affairs, the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children, the Women and Children Crisis Centre, the
Talitha Project and Tonga Street Boyz.

Women and Children Crisis Centre director, ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki commented on the significance of the commencement of the 16 Days of
Activism co-inciding with Tonga’s historic democratic elections. “As we welcome the new government later today we all sincerely hope that
one of their first steps is to prioritise the elimination of Violence Against Women. As a nation we need to acknowledge that Violence
Against Women is a human rights violation – even when it happens in the home” said Guttenbeil-Likiliki.

As Tonga enters a new political era, Kelley encouraged the whole community to be responsible for these crimes committed against women,
“the four women and one child who died in 2009 as a result of family violence can’t keep it as a ‘family matter’. The memory of these
victims should haunt and remind us all that ‘we let it happen, here in Tonga, in our community”.

The Commander called on the Tongan values of respect and honour and asked, “if it is not ok to assault your mother or your sister in this
society, what makes it ok to assault your wife or other women?… we all know that it is never ok!”


To find out more on the international movement, please visit: http://www.saynotoviolence.org/

Please contact the Women and Children Crisis Centre <www.wccc.tbu.to> (676) 22 240 or wccrisiscentre@gmail.com for more details.


Girls Ask the candidates tough questions

As Tonga fast approaches its historic elections, the Women and Children Crisis Centre is promoting the voices of young girls. In a first for the Kingdom the documentary, “Girls Ask” is being made in which young girls ask questions to the candidates about the issues of most importance to them.

“Often we do not hear the voices of young girls in society” said Vika ‘Akauola, a participant in the Girls Ask documentary “using the medium of film is a way to make a safe space for girls to highlight the issues that matter most to them.”

Issues raised by the girls include unemployment, preventing violence against women and child abuse, teenage pregnancy, economic opportunities for women, the environment, access to services and freedom of information.

The documentary is part of WCCC’s I-YEL (Inspiring Young Empowered Leaders) program, which aims to provide girls age 18 – 35 with skills and career development.  It will be shown next Thursday, September 28th, with only the participants and the candidates in attendance.

“The pressure is taken off with only the participants and candidates in the room.  The girls in the program are really articulate and have a lot to say. This is an opportunity to say it” said ‘Akau’ola. After the premiere, the floor will be opened up for candidates to respond to issues raised in the documentary. The discussion will be recorded and incorporated into the final cut of the documentary, which will be used to keep candidates accountable to any promises they have made.

Candidates are invited to attend the screening at the Free Weslyan Hall in Fanga ‘o Pilolevu at 7pm, September 28.


  “Koe me’a ‘oku toka ‘i hoku lotoˊ ke ma’u faingamālie muˊa ‘a fafine mo tangata pea ke ma’u kelekele ‘a fafine.”  Vika ‘Akauola, I-YEL participant



“ There’s lots of kids who drop out of school and it’s not good for the community because they go out with their friends and they get into trouble in their villages causing problems to their families and to their whole community” Sia Adams, I-YEL participant


“ Ko e me’a ‘oku ou tokanga lahi kiai ke fakalahi mu’a e faingamālie e kau faiako ‘osi mei kolisi fakafaiako he ‘oku ‘osi e ta’u ia mahalo ko ha toko 1 pe toko 2 ‘oku fakangaue’i he ‘ū ‘apiako e Pule’anga” Leata Hoeft, I-YEL participate ngaahi palopalema ki he ngaahi fāmiliˊkae pehe foki ki he komiunitˊi fakakātoa” ko Sia Admas ia, taha ‘o e kau finemui I-YEL


Light continues to shine on young girls of Tonga

WCCC staff, ‘Asela Sauaki, Lesila To’ia and Vika ‘Akau’ola were invited to the Tongatapu, ‘Eua and Vava’u Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) – the week long sleep away camp for empowering young girls between the ages of 13 – 21.

Sauaki, WCCC Community Education Trainer was a guest speaker at the Vava’u Camp GLOW and she talked on Sexual Harassment and Domestic Violence, “As young girls even in school you experience sexual harassment. It’s important to know that uninvited comments or actions are not acceptable, and you should be letting an adult know about the situation”.

Counselor Advocate, To’ia was a guest speaker for the main camp which included approximately 30 participants from Tongatapu and ‘Eua. She also presented on sexual harassment, “The girls were surprised at many of the things they learnt about sexual harassment –  they thought it was ok when a boy winks at them even though they don’t like it. If it makes you uncomfortable then it’s not ok.”

‘Akau’ola was one of the Camp Counselors to lead the young women who are early school leavers. “It was a great experience for me – I spent time with these young beautiful women and learnt that most of them only dropped out from school because they valued something else. The girls were happy with all the encouragement from the camp and are now thinking of going back to school or looking for a job.”

The camp provides participants with insight into issues and topics that are not taught at schools but are still relevant to their daily lives such as decision making, goals and motivation.

Participants expressed relief after realizing that it is possible to talk to people about the issue or confront the harasser by telling them that what he is doing is “not ok”.  The session also provided information on how to report sexual harassment to authorities with an understanding that sexual harassment is not the victims fault.


Australian Leaders visit WCCC

At the crisis centre, the LAFIA team discussed the prevalence of violence against women, how the centre was established and causal societal factors for why violence occurs. The team were interested in the fact that the statistics for Tonga show that jealousy and finances are two of the most commonly stated reasons by clients explaining why domestic violence occurs.

The delegation was headed up by the former Australian High Commissioner to Tonga, HE Mr. Angus McDonald. He noted that the name of the centre says much about the level of change in Tongan society, relaying that originally when the first safe house for victims of domestic violence was set up, the name ‘crisis centre’ was too controversial to put in the title.

The fact that now Tonga has an independent NGO under the name of Crisis Centre indicates that the level of awareness of the severity of the crime that is violence against women has increased.

Trafficking in the Pacific: reports on the rise

The first official trafficking case has been reported in the Kingdom of Tonga, reflecting a broader emerging trend in the Pacific.

Often called modern day slavery, trafficking involves the sale, transport and profit from human beings who are forced to work for others. This can be any kind of labour, including sexual exploitation.

The US Embassy Trafficking in Persons 2010 (TIP) report revealed that trafficking in the Pacific is reflecting worldwide trends: more cases are being reported and a significant gender bias exists, with the majority of cases directly involving women and children as victims.

Several Pacific countries including Fiji and Kiribati are designated as tier two watchlist, which means that the Governments of these nations are not complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, US based legislation that aims to set a minimum standard to eliminate human trafficking.

In Tonga, the Police charged two people with human trafficking, which involved the recruitment and transportation of women from another country under false pretences, who were then coerced into prostitution. The case is still pending although charges have been dropped against one of the two people citing a lack of evidence.

The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) in Tonga is quick to point out the sexual trafficking incident in Tonga is not isolated, with reports of sexual assault on the increase. Cases have also been processed involving incest with minors and rape. WCCC Research Officer, Louisa Samani said “This increase in reports may be due to increased criminal activity, or an increased understanding that sexual assault is not acceptable. Despite this increase, the majority of sexual assault and trafficking continues to go unreported.”

Seminal research on the unreported status of sexual assault in Tonga is currently beign undertaken by WCCC. The centre aims to identify high risk areas which require more access to services and increase the level of understanding about sexual assault as a crime. Samani indicates that there are many reasons to explain why sexual assault is not reported to authorities “with cases such as incest or rape, which are highly taboo in our culture, victims may feel frightened or embarrassed. The perpetrator may also be protected within the community, especially if they are a family member or a known person to the victim.”

WCCC is currently accepting submissions to the report – if you know about any cases of sexual assault, trafficking or any situation that you believe may be linked to sexual assault in Tonga, please contact the centre wccrisiscentre@gmail.com.


Is this fair?

A first hand account from a worker at WCCC.

I took care of a survivor of domestic violence and her 7 children as part of my work at the WCCC.

This case reached court and it has been delayed 7 times. Almost every hearing has had a new judge, and with that comes a new way of dealing with domestic violence cases.

I have seen first hand the problems that the client is facing  due to the ongoing delays of court. The court said that she must stay with WCCC in the safe house until her case is resolved. This means that she and her children are living in a house that is not their home. The children have been transferred to a different school, which is very stressful for them.

Currently the client is pregnant and I can see that the stress of the situation is taking a toll on her. She feels very responsible for what is happening – She thought she couldn’t fulfill her responsibilities as a mother to her children and also her tasks at home because she is still doing daily jobs to pay for her loan that she did to buy a washing machine.

With each delay in the court case, the husband is free to continue his life as he chooses.

She is not the one who has done the crime and yet she is living a life where some of her rights have been taken away. Is this fair?


Protecting the rights of women

During the electoral campaigns we again find ourselves digging up the same old arguments against CEDAW (the Convention for Elimination of Discrimination Against Women).

The points raised by some candidates that CEDAW will legalize same sex marriage and abortion is ludicrous.

What we need to understand as a nation – is that the Constitution of Tonga is the supreme law of the land.  Every other convention, treaty or legal binding agreement is not above the Constitution.

As it stands any bill can be drafted and presented to parliament to become law.  It is then up to parliament, cabinet and the privy council to pass the bill into law.

What CEDAW does is encourage state parties to get rid of laws that are discriminatory against women.  I don’t see what the big deal is. Tonga has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1972, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995 and has recently become signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007.

Signing a convention means that as a nation we are saying yes these groups of people have rights that we want to recognize.

So the way I see this whole situation with CEDAW is that as a nation we are saying NO we don’t want to recognize the rights of our women. The fact is there is no ifs, buts or maybes to this! YES we want to protect the rights of women!!

Rights for Convention signed
Children YES
Foreigners, ethnic minorities YES
Persons living with disabilities YES
Women NO