Training provides new insight for WCCC staff

WCCC’s Community Education Trainer, Lesila To’ia attended a two week gender training of trainers in Pacific Harbour, Deuba, Fiji from the 28th of March to the 8th of April.


Organized by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), the training included 31 participants from Nauru, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Fiji. “I would like to thank FWCC for this opportunity. I learnt a lot and found it very useful and relevant to the work that I do, especially the gender analysis process which was totally new to me”, said To’ia.


The first week of the training was Gender Awareness facilitated by the FWCC’s Coordinator, Shamima Ali and FWCC Deputy Coordinator, Edwinda Kotoisuva. The second week was facilitated by Dr. Juliet Hunt from Australia and covered Gender Analysis.

Gender Analysis is a type of Social Analysis which requires the collection, analysis and application of sex-disaggregated data or information, it is also a process which considers the impact that a development problem, policy, project, program or issue may have on girls and boys, women and men; and on the economic and social relationships between them (gender power relations). – Hunt, J: Effective Gender Analysis and Strategies for International Development, Melbourne, 2009.


“With the knowledge and skills gained from this workshop, I will be able to analyze policies, budgets, and projects from a gender perspective. Also it will strengthen my skills in trying to promote women’s human rights and gender equality through the awareness programs that we carry out from the Centre”, said Lesila.


TFHA Filitonu gender and human rights training

WCCC facilitated a week long workshop in gender and human rights for the Tonga Family Health Association (TFHA) Filitonu Drama group.


The Filitonu is a health promotion drama group that promotes healthy messages through drama. They perform at schools, Churches and community events.


The week long workshop was facilitated by WCCC’s Male Advocate, ‘Usaia Hemaloto and Community Education Trainer Lesila Toia. It included topics such as basic rights and entitlements that men and women should have equal access to, and excuses that are used to justify behavior that violates human rights.


Filitonu member Jimmy Ongosia attended the training and found the concept of human rights to be the most interesting part. “Everyone has the right to information, confidentiality, access, dignity, comfort, safety privacy and an opinion. Ultimately everyone is allowed to make choices, and every choice has a consequence.”


The difference between sex (which is the biological differences between men and women) and gender (the learned, behavioral differences between men and women) – the was also an eye opener. “Sex and gender are two very deep words that I hadn’t thought much about the meaning of before. What, really, does masculinity mean? We are all born free and importantly, equal” said Ongosia, demonstrating that masculinity is a learned or gendered behavior.


Each morning sessions covered human rights, gender, domestic violence, and rape and child abuse. In the afternoons Australian Youth Ambassador Nathan Stoneham facilitated drama sessions to apply the learning of the session. Participants were encouraged to embody their learning. One exercise encouraged participants to take a family portrait that demonstrated the face shown to the public, and what is going on in private. It explored the impact of domestic violence on families and especially children.


“The training helped to make our dramas more realistic and focused. Now when we make dramas we think about gender equality and human rights to help audiences think more about issues and empower the rights of women and children.


We are all equal before the law, no one should be held in slavery or by force” said Ongosia.


The need for meaningful gender analysis

The Ministry of Education, Women’s Affairs and Culture (MEWAC) has publicly noted their concern on the high drop-out rates of boys from the primary and secondary school levels, where girls are doing much better.  It’s a gender issue that needs to be addressed.

However, we also must not lose sight of the fact that in the workforce the actual play-out of leadership positions shows us that men are still dominating these higher positions, Director, CEO and Ministerial positions – positions that play a key role in decision making processes, are largely held by men.

So while we agree to address this issue of boys doing not so well in primary and secondary school, we must also be ready to address the gender issue of women’s lack of representation at the highest positions in the workforce, particularly government positions.  We cannot address one gender issue and ignore another when they are so intimately linked.

Policies and programs currently developed by our new government must take into consideration a meaningful gender analysis in all its planning stages.  With the National Strategic Development Plan 9, we question the process in which it has been drafted and developed.  Has it undergone a gender critique?  We missed the opportunity to show this in our NSDP 8 and it would be a huge shame to have missed the opportunity to have done this with the NSPD 9.

This month, we also farewell our communication officer, VIDA volunteer Leeanne Torpey, who has been with the WCCC since its inception in October 2009.  In solidarity we wish her all the best with her onwards journey and futures plans and welcome our new communications and administration officer Tupou Lanuamata, Malo aupito Leeanne!!!

Commission on the Status of Women 2011

Education, technology and employment.

These three words and their importance for women were on the table for
discussion at the 55th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Held in New York this year from Feb 22 – March 4th, CSW is one of the most important annual meetings to promote gender equality. It is coordinated as a part of the  United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This year’s meeting was the first run under the newly formed body UN Women.

This year’s theme was “Access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work”.

Tonga is one of the 192 United Nations member states but was unable to send a representative to CSW this year. However Tonga has recently released a progress report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Director of the Women and Children Crisis Centre, Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki said “Tonga has a lot of progress to make to achieve its international commitments; especially in regards to incorporating a more comprehensive gender analysis throughout all the MDGs.”
CSW reiterated the importance of nations maintaining their obligations to the MDGs.

The 55th CSW outcomes document included improving access by women and girls to education, especially in the fields of science and technology, with key resolutions on gender and HIV/AIDS and climate change.

The Commission highlighted concern for the increase in dropout rates of female students in many parts of the world, including Tonga, owing to multiple discrimination and factors that impede girls’ participation in education “If girls become pregnant while they are in school, unfortunately many loose access to completing their education. It’s a violation of their rights and we end up in a situation where young mothers are being further disadvantaged” said Guttenbeil-Likiliki.

CSW also assessed the progress of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which aims to achieve full and equal access and participation of women and girls in education, training and science and technology.

The Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was discussed again at CSW, with positive reports that ratification of the convention leads to Governments developing policies and laws that promote women’s human rights. Emphasis was placed on nations to ratify the convention. Tonga is one of the few Pacific nations that have not yet ratified CEDAW.


WCCC celebrates Womens International Day



The centenary of International Women’s Day was celebrated across the Kingdom of Tonga – recognizing women’s achievements and the need to do more to empower women in our society. The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC, which is the Kingdom’s only Non Government Organization working to eliminate Violence Against Women and Children) celebrated by attending an array of events.

“It’s exciting, we love IWD at WCCC. We get an opportunity to appreciate the success that women have made in their struggle for what they deserve – to have equal rights, access and opportunities as men” said Sr. Anuncia Fifita, Safe House Manager of the Crisis Centre.

A prayer breakfast was held by the Westpac Bank of Tonga, who raised funds for the Women and Children Crisis Centre through proceeds from the sale of purple International Women’s Day ribbons. Three grants for Pacific women and girls pursuing education were also announced, totaling just under $2000.

In announcing the grants General Manager of Westpac Tonga, Paul Wilkinson said, “Our involvement with the International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present and future.”

Staff of the Crisis Centre also attended an event held by Tonga’s Ministry of Education, Women Affair’s and Culture, with a program that included a Prayer Service, Awards for winners of secondary schools essay competitions, Debating and exhibitions from women’s organizations, employment and education providers. The Keynote address was delivered by the Guest of Honour, The Hon. Frederica Fatafehi Lapaha Tuita.

WCCC’s Male Advocate ‘Usia Hemaloto featured as the guest speaker at IWD celebrations at the Tupou Tertiary Institute, a Free Weslyan Technical Training Institution. He spoke on the role of men in supporting women’s human rights.

“I hear many men say that International Women’s Day is only for women. To me, this is missing the point. Men and women need to work together to create equal opportunities for women, and International Women’s Day is a perfect time to have these much needed conversations about striving to achieve gender equality” said Hemaloto.

Staffs at the centre maintain that there is a long way to go yet in Tonga to achieve equal rights for women and men.

The number of men outweighs the number of women in paid employment. In the workforce, men continue to be in higher paid and key decision making positions. Women also do not have equal access to land, and as a result face extreme challenges when trying to access credit. Women are also underrepresented in Tonga’s house of Parliament. Currently there is only one woman in parliament who holds the Ministerial post for Education, Women’s Affairs and Culture. Since 1951, only four women have been elected to Parliament and three women appointed to Ministerial posts. Tonga’s economy is heavily weighted towards a subsistence lifestyle – barriers to land and employment effectively place women into a position of dependence upon men.

If women are to act as independent agents, the lifestyle options available to them are less desirable than those afforded to men, and more commonly steeped in economic hardship and poverty. “Investing in women is essential to investing in the community” said Sr. Anuncia Fifita, WCCC Safe House Manager.

“We are honored to mark the achievements of women on this 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, and can only imagine what achievements we will be celebrating in another 100 years”.