Tongan advocate to keep pushing for CEDAW

A women’s advocate in Tonga says a delay in the signing of a controversial rights convention may be positive for supporters of the move.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has told parliament that the government will step back from ratifying the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW.

Earlier church leaders led opposition against CEDAW saying it would open the way for same-sex marriage and abortion.

The director of the Women and Children Crisis Centre Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki says the parliamentary comments do not signal an end to the CEDAW process.

She says, if anything, the effort to achieve ratification will be strengthened.

“What we have learnt over the last six months is that there needs to be some talanoa, (discussions), in terms of getting people to understand what the convention is about and to get them to talk and ask questions. To date, that hasn’t really taken place over the last six months, it’s really just been a war in the media.”

The government has suggested that a referendum could be held over the matter sometime next year.


Many in Tonga, including women, oppose CEDAW saying it includes counter-culture clauses such as same sex marriage and abortion.

I cannot handle it anymore

The client is 18 years old and lives in Tongatapu. She lived with her partner for 2 years before marrying him, and it was not until they got married that her husband started abusing her both verbally and physically. She had also suspected that her husband was having affairs.

After the birth of their first child her husband beat her up badly. She reported this to the police. It was settled with a brief council by the police and the Magistrate, and as a result her husband was pardoned by the court. But sadly the beatings continued, and from the experience she had with the police and the court, she lost faith in attempting to report again.

One day she could not handle it anymore and she came to the WCCC for help. She received counselling and was housed in the safe house.

She was relieved when the Magistrate put her husband on a suspended sentence. She felt this enabled her to return home to a safe environment: “If my husband returns to his violent ways at least I have the suspended order on record – so the police can’t pretend anymore that they don’t have anything on file – and the next time we appear in court he will get a much more serious sentence. If that happens, it is proof to me that he wasn’t serious about changing, and so I will consider a divorce.”



Living in fear for months

Pela* grew up with her little sister in *‘Uiha. They moved to the main island when their mother married a man in Tongatapu.

Pela is 13 and her sister is 11. They don’t go to school. Pela and her sister stayed home with their mum and stepfather. The plantation was being looked after by their stepfather.

After a few months in Tongatapu, their stepfather’s behaviour changed. He always asked Pela to go to the plantation with him where he raped her. She was very scared and could not call for help, because he told her if she said a word he would kill her. He threatened to do the same to her little sister if she told anyone. So she stayed silent.

Pela lived in fear for months, and found out her stepfather was doing the same to her little sister. They were both very scared of him, and they didn’t know how to tell their mum.

Pela’s mum found out after a woman who was having an affair with her husband told her that she knew what he had been doing with the daughters. Pela’s mum was shocked and asked the girls if it was true. They told her everything that he had done.

Pela’s mum went straight to WCCC to seek help. The Counsellor told them about WCCC’s services including the police officer stationed at the centre, and they filed a statement at the WCCC office.

The 2 girls stayed at the Safehouse for a few months until their court hearing. All the staff of the WCCC worked together with the Police Department for the safety of these two sisters. The stepfather was arrested and pleaded guilty. He died while in prison waiting for sentencing. The family moved back to ‘Uiha.  The Centre is still in contact with them to provide ongoing counselling.

*The name of the client and the place have been changed to protect the clients’ identity.


“I have no voice at all”

It was a shock that my husband treated me this way after a short time of marriage. He beat me, swore at me and said bad words that really hurt me. He beat me with a piece of timber, a coconut scraper and threw things at me. It was really hard for me to tell how he would react to something that I did,  if he would like it or not.

More than five times I sought help from the police, and the truth is, they did nothing to solve our problems. Even my parents and my family were always begging me to go back to him because of our children. We have six children.

Our problems have had a huge impact on our children’s education. My other relatives were sick of stopping us arguing and fighting all the time and I just couldn’t handle it. He’s the type who can’t talk in a peaceful way, he doesn’t want to listen to anything I say, I have no voice at all. Whatever he does and says he thinks he’s right. He wants me when he gets back from work, to cook his food, clean the house, wash and iron his clothes and hang them to make it easy for him to pick the clothes he wants to wear.

All this time I’ve been back and forth to  the police with no progress and no solution to our problems. I sought help from different people and then heard about the Women and Children Crisis Centre from a close relative. I went straight to the Centre, and told them my problems. I had a counseling session with the counselor and also support from their legal officer.

Finally I made my decision to have a Police Safety Order (PSO) issued to my husband, for my and the children’s safety. I also decided to apply for  child maintenance.

I thank WCCC for their great support because without them I may not have escaped from the violent relationship I was stuck in. Now I feel safe and free. I encourage all women who are still trapped in the same situation to get out from it and do something to stop that violent relationship. If you don’t the violence will continue and it will not stop until you do something to stop it. So I recommend you seek help from WCCC any time you want, they are there to help you in whatever way they can.


“A huge relief”

My husband and I have been married for almost twenty years, we have six children and both of us work for a living.

 It was the saddest day of my life when I learned that my husband had lied to me. I have been living in a violent relationship with my husband. Whenever I asked him to tell me the truth that is when I got beaten up. And because I still loved my husband, one day I followed him to the house of the other woman he was seeing and I hid outside while he went inside.

 I waited until he came out of the house. On his way back he found me outside and beat me there and then took me home.

 Our violent relationship had a huge impact on my work and my family, especially my children. I was absent from work many times and our children started to hate their father because they saw and heard what he did to me.

 I lived in pain every day and our relationship started to break down.  I was trying to think of a way to solve our problems and I reached a point where I decided to go straight to the workplace of the woman my husband was seeing and talk to her.

 I saw no other option so I decided to go and see my husband’s girlfriend. While I was waiting at the reception area one of the customers started talking to me. We had a conversation, and I couldn’t hold on to my pain so I shared it with this person.

 She asked me if I had been to the Women and Children Crisis Centre to seek their assistance and talk to them.  I told her “no”. She encouraged me to go to the centre because they provide services for women and children. They have a legal officer, police officer, a nurse and the counsellors if I need someone to talk to.

 During our conversation I made my decision that I would launch a complaint with the police. I went straight to the Crisis Centre and told them my problem and launched a complaint.  The police officer issued a Police Safety Order (PSO) to my husband to remove him from our house. This was a huge relief.

 I still receive follow up from the Centre.  I am very happy now and safe with my children. I acknowledge the Centre for their help and support and I encourage any women who are living in pain and fear in  violent relationships to visit the Centre and seek their help and assistance.



The WCCC sends a huge MALO ‘AUPITO (thank you) to those individuals, organisations, associations and groups who have made the following donations to the Centre over the last 3 months;

¨   Heilala Charity from Australia – Desktop computers,

  laptops, refrigerators, TV, DVD player and musical

  instruments (electric guitar and a piano)

¨   Rev. John and Ann Connan from the

  Mission Liaison Group) – Ten school bags with

  complete school materials and clothes.

Thank you very much for always thinking of the Women and Children Crisis Centre.




Network caring for people living with disability

The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) was one of the non-government organisations awarded for its work with people living with disabilities at the  official opening  of the new Social Protection and Disability Office, a new portfolio of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The award was presented by Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho the guest of honour at the ceremony in Wesley square,  Tungi Colonnade.

In her keynote address, Her Majesty emphasized  “these are the people that need our love and care. Often they are left out, ashamed of and hidden by families and ignored. I am grateful and acknowledge the government for this important work. I also thank Non-Government Organisations that are helping out these people, for they are a part of us.”

The Queen was moved by a skit from the Fili Tonu Drama Group about how some people living with disability are treated. She also reflected on her time working at the ‘Ofa Tui mo e ‘Amanaki (OTA) centre.

Certificates were awarded to government ministries and non-government organisations that work together with people with disabilities.


Reaching out

The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) has resumed its weekly radio programs as part of its community education and outreach.

The programs are aimed at reaching out to the remote areas and outer islands where they do not have direct access to the WCCC’s services.

“It is helpful for the public  to be reminded frequently that violence is happening in Tonga and it is a crime. It needs to be stopped. The radio programmes are also a means of letting women and children know of the existing support services where they can get help when experiencing violence and abuse. It is never too late to seek help”, said Lesila To’ia the WCCC Community Educator.

The programs have covered in detail  issues that the WCCC addresses including Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Abuse. They will continue to cover other issues and related topics in future.

One  client came to WCCC after she was directed to the Centre by her mother who heard the radio programs in New Zealand. The programmes encourage people, especially women and children, to come forward and use the support services of the centre.

They also influence people to reconsider their views and attitudes to violence against women and children.


WCCC outreach programs

The WCCC’s Community, Training and Awareness Team continued to carry out awareness programs to schools and communities. This is one of its services in educating the public that violence against women and girls is harmful, as some people still make up excuses and justification for violence.

“Still, there are a lot of people who do not believe  it. Therefore, it is  important for us from the Centre to provide evidence about this problem. In reality, this is not easy, for some parents still argue that the most effective way for them to discipline their children is using corporal punishment. However, with our awareness programs, some parents are starting to understand the impacts and negative effects of violence on both women and children”, said Lesila To’ia, the Community Educator.

It is the hope of the Centre, that spreading the message that violence is not ok, and providing  information, will help influence people’s attitudes. Then they will accept, respect and treat others as their equals.

Awareness programs were conducted at the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology, Tonga College ‘Atele, the Mango Tree Centre and with a women’s group at Longolongo.

The Stay Safe Program for primary schools was carried out at Government Primary Schools at Ma’ufanga, ‘Atele, Mu’a, Lapaha, Longolongo and Popua.

This program is aimed at educating  children on how to be safe and secure. It also assists children to differentiate good touches from bad touches and encourages them to report anything that seems suspicious to them.

Overall, the program emphasises that our children are special and precious to us, therefore should not be subject to violence and abuse.


Julie Bishop congratulates WCCC

Australia’s first female Foreign Affairs Minister included the Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) on her agenda during her recent visit to Tonga. The one and a half day visit was to highlight Australia’s close economic and security relationship with Tonga.

The Hon. Julie Bishop visited WCCC with Tonga’s Minister of Internal Affairs the Hon. Fe’ao Vakata and the Australian High Commissioner to Tonga, HE Brett Aldam. She congratulated WCCC and acknowledged the work carried out by the Centre.   She also announced funding of $450,000 to the centre in 2014-16 as part of the Australian aid program’s long-standing support to women in Tonga.

The Australian Aid Program has been supportive of the women of Tonga and we congratulate you particularly on the focus on preventing violence. We will continue to ensure that women in Tonga are safe in their home, safe in their community and feel secure as they go about in their daily lives”,  Bishop said.

 Bishop’s short visit to the Centre was very supportive. Her words encouraged WCCC to carry on with the work they are doing in supporting and educating women, changing attitudes and recognizing  human rights.

“We recognize that the centre has a significant role to play  not only in providing support to women and their families but in changing attitudes and in educating people to understand that supporting women and recognizing humans rights is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do”, stated  Bishop.

 WCCC Director, ‘Ofa Guttenbeil Likiliki made a special acknowledgement of the Foreign Minister’s portfolio where being Australia’s first female Foreign  Affairs Minister  following 112 years  of male leadership in  that position is a historical milestone for both Australian women and women across the Pacific.

The Director also acknowledged Australia’s ongoing efforts and commitments to eliminating violence against women and girls throughout the Pacific, “we  are passionate about we do and although it is challenging work,  with your governments support we are able to overcome  many of those challenges — at the end of the day—it’s about  building societies that see women and men, girls and boys as equal and where we all treat each other with dignity and respect and unless we start seeing these changes, violence against women and girls will continue to rise.”

The Hon. Julie Bishop’s visit was her first visit to Tonga in her ministerial post.