Crisis Centre assists over 1,800 women and children

The Women & Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) says that it has assisted more than 1,800 women and children in Tonga since its inception in 2009. The Nuku’alofa based centre says that there have been some dramatic cases of domestic disturbances, including incidents of child molesting.

The director of the WCCC, ‘Ofa Likiliki, said that Tonga is not an exception to the global problems of family violence.

“Reports of violence against women and children in Tonga are increasing – bBetween 2000 and 2013, the Tongan Police have received more than 5,000 reported cases of domestic violence with the majority of victims being women and children. The WCCC between the years 2009 and 2014 has assisted more than 1,800 women and children through its counselling advocacy and support services and temporary safe housing,” she said.

The Women & Children Crisis Centre is the second centre of its kind to be established in Tonga that is dedicated to supporting victims of domestic violence.

“The WCCC was pioneered by a group of women and some male advocate supporters who were determined to develop an NGO that is efficient and professional in its deliverance of quality support services to women and children, survivors of violence, throughout Tonga. The Mo’ui Ke Fiefia Safe House provides a 24 hour temporary safe house accommodation to women and children who are victims of violence.”

She said that the WCCC’s work was informed by the experiences of their clients. She said the most dramatic cases were incidents of child molesting, and incidents where women were kept in severe isolation by their partners.

“Male family members over a long period of time rape young girls as young as five years of age right up to 17 years of age, the ones 5-13 are the hardest to deal with.”

She explained that other cases involved isolation, “Where women are living in harsh coercive control situations, where she is isolated from her family and not allowed to go anywhere or talk to anyone without the consent of her husband or partner, and nobody has any idea because it’s not physical violence, which is more obvious.”

Some clients at the centre had revealed their personal accounts of domestic violence and mistreatment.

One woman at the centre described how she suffered beatings from her former husband. The woman said that her ex-husband attacked her even after they had already divorced and separated. She explained “Suddenly my ex-husband showed up walking towards me. I started to ask where he had been and I hadn’t completed my sentence when I totally blacked out – When I came back into consciousness, he punched me right on my left eye, pulled me down and started to kick me, and then threw me into the sea. He came down after me and tried to drown me. The girl who was with me ran and called for help.”

Another young woman at the centre described how she had been abused as a child. She said “I was in class 6 when my father began treating me in a way that was morally wrong. He would touch me and say things that you should not say to your daughter. He told me not to tell anyone, especially anyone on my mother’s side of the family – I finally had the courage to tell my aunty on my mother’s side about the way my father was treating me. The police took me to the Crisis Centre so that I could stay in the safe house. It is difficult with my family right now. I feel safe and free here. At the Safe House I have learned to count and also the ABC in Tongan and English and I can spell some words.”

“Ofa believes that the problems of domestic violence stem from a lack of belief in human rights.

“Violence against Women and Girls is the most pervasive human rights violation throughout the world. The lack of knowledge and belief in human rights is the fundamental root cause of why key agencies and communities, both women and men, boys and girls believe that women and men are not equal and hence why discrimination and violence is an accepted practice at various levels”

She voiced her dissatisfaction of Tonga’s land ownership laws which declare that land can only be owned by males. “Women‘s lack of property and land ownership contributes to women‘s low social status and their vulnerability to poverty. It is also linked to women‘s low representation in decision making processes at the highest level.”

“Because women cannot own land in Tonga, the access to financial assistance is restricted.  This is also intimately linked to the reasons why women find it difficult to walk away from a violent relationship,” she said.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 – 23:11

By Finau Fonua – Matangi Tonga Online


“Come up with Legislation to Change the Situation:” ‘Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva

Press Release

[NUKU’ALOFA 08 JANUARY 2015]:  The Tongan Women in Action (TWAC) network currently administered by the Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) welcomes the response of the Prime Minister for women to come up with legislation to change the situation of women’s political representation in parliament.

The response from the Prime Minister came following a petition that was submitted with 416 signatures calling for the PM to consider using his prerogative under the law to appoint a woman to a Ministerial Portfolio following the results of the General Elections where none of the female candidates were successful.

In Tonga’s Political history the late Queen Salote and her government had given women the right to vote and stand as candidates since 1951.  From 1951 – It took 8 parliamentary terms or another 24 years before we saw the first women elected into Parliament and that was HRH Princess Mele Si’ilikutapu in 1975-1978 as one of the People’s Representatives from Tongatapu

  • 3 years later in 1978-1981 or the next parliamentary session – the 2nd women elected into parliament – Tongatapu PR Papiloa Foliaki
  • From 1981 14 years later for the period 1995-1998:  the 3rd Women elected into parliament and first women to be elected as PR to the Niuas – ‘Ofa Fusitu’a
  • From 1998 7 years later for the period 2005-2008:  the 4th and currently the last women elected into parliament – Niuas PR Lepolo Mahe Taunisila
  • And in the last two general elections under the new democratic reforms no women have been elected in.  so we could say that from 2008 (the last elections under the old system) plus the 2010 and 2014 general elections a total a 6 years we have had no women elected into parliament by the people

So in summary since 1951 up until the last general elections held in 2014 a total of 63 years – there have only ever been four women elected by the people into parliament.

The Prime Minister’s response to the petition submitted to him on the 03 January 2015 is welcomed by the newly established TWAC network.  According to ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki Director of WCCC and voluntary facilitator of TWAC:  “the petition itself has generated a lot of public debate and it was certainly the hot topic of the first week of the year and it was the first petition given to the new Prime Minister which has worked in our favour as we have seen with his response.  We will definitely hold him accountable to this response,” says Guttenbeil Likiliki.

The TWAC network is open to all Tongan women in Tonga, NZ, Australia, USA, UK and the diaspora, women living or residing in Tonga and male friends, colleagues, partners who support the cause.  A FACEBOOK PAGE titled Tongan Women in Action is dedicated to the facilitation and administration of this group.  “Over the next four years TWAC has one mission: To build solidarity amongst women in progressing women’s political participation in Tonga. One of our priorities this year will be undertaking research into the what the best model for Tonga would look like in terms of affirmative action and temporary special measures”, says Guttenbeil-Likiliki.  [ENDS]