The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) yesterday launched its pilot program Inspiring Young Empowered Leaders (I-YEL) 2010-2011 In-take at the Fanga Free Weslyan Church Hall with 20 young women between the ages of 18-35.

The pilot I-YEL program will run over a period of 12 months and will aim to encourage, prepare and challenge young people from diverse backgrounds to be advocates for human rights with a special focus on women and children’s rights, social justice, gender equality and the overall goal of promoting the elimination of violence against women and children.

Part of the I-YEL program is the Ta’okete (big sister) Mentoring program.  This is where each of the young girls are given the opportunity to team up with another inspiring female leader in Tonga who can and is willing to provide one-on-one mentoring and coaching, particularly if the mentor has a career path that the I-YEL 2010-2011 in-take aspires to follow.

Director of the WCCC, ‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki told the group of I-YEL recruits and mentors yesterday that the I-YEL program is part of the WCCC’s prevention strategies in their overall goal in eliminating violence against women and children, “through leadership development, career exploration and vision-setting, we hope that the I-YEL 2010-2011 in-take will be equipped with the appropriate skills to make wiser decisions – decisions that will help them live a life free from violence and abuse and to promote gender equality throughout Tonga.”

The 20 young women launched the program by presenting brief All About Me charts which included their vision for the development of Tonga.  Some of these visions included women’s right to own land, ending deforestation in Ha’apai, public transportation safety, increasing the number of women in parliament, addressing inflation, gender equality and the elimination of violence against women and children.

One of the highlights of the presentations was the opportunity for the 2010-2011 in-takes to identify role models – whilst the majority of the young women selected family members and the mentors taking part of the I-YEL program, there were some notable regional and international names that popped up “Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa and Shamima Ali.”

Over the next 12 month period, the I-YEL 2010-2011 in-takes will take part in informative sessions on issues that they have identified as well as core activities that will involve public interaction such as the I-YEL Voters Education amongst 18-35 olds, the I-YEL Girls Ask Campaign, public debate, public speech, I-YEL roundtable and the 16 days of activism.

The first recruit of I-YEL women and their mentors, as listed below.

 

I-YEL RECRUIT

 

CAREER ASPIRATION

 

MENTOR

Alaviola Maka School Program Manager Meleane Tonga (Tupou Tertiary Institute)
Asela Sauaki Human Rights Advocate Betty Blake (Ma’a Fafine mo e Famili MFF)
Foketi Kavapele Crisis Counselor Women and Children Crisis Centre Counselors (WCCC)
Leata Hoeft

 

Teacher/Principal Dr. ‘Ungatea Fonua Kata (Prinicpal, Tupou High School)
Fe’ao Halangahu

 

Lawyer Dana Stephenson (Stephenson and Associates)
Louisa Samani Women Rights Advocate and Researcher Lepolo Taunisila (Women’s Rights Advocate / RRRT/SPC Country Focal Officer)
‘Ofa Fonofehi Political Journalist Mele Amanaki (Editor, Ko e Kakai, Human Rights Activist)
Silioti Lausi’I

 

Aviation Lasale Cocker (Ministry of Aviation)to be confirmed
Taufa’ila Fonokalafi

 

Economist Vika Fusimalohi (Economist) to be confirmed
Sia Adams

 

Newspaper Editor Josie Latu (Contributing Editor, Pacific Media Watch)

 

Kilisitina Pifeleti

 

Accountant Aloma Johansson (R. Albin Johansson & Co)
Vika ‘Akauola Youth Leader Vanessa Lolohea (Director, Tonga National Youth Congress)
Peta Hoeft Business / Marketing Monalisa Palu (Professional PR)
‘Ofa Funaki National Security Fuatapu Halangahu (Tonga Defence Services, one of the first female Officers of the TDS)
Siaila Jagroop Creative Writer Karlo Mila Schaaf (Creative Writer, NZ mentor by email)
Tupou Paseka Life skills Sr, Anuncia Fifita (WCCC Safe House Manager)

 

Racheal Langi Journalist Katalina Tohi (88.1FM) to be confirmed
Soana Haukoloa Community Programs/Communications Siale ‘Ilolahia (Director, Civil Society of Tonga)
Mena Samani Marine Conservation Officer Oka Tu’umoto’oa (JICA Marine Project) to be confirmed
Soana  Pongi Social Worker Nesi ‘Aho (Social Worker) to be confirmed
Lute Takau Lawyer Lesina Tonga (private legal practitioner)
Tepi ‘Ofahulu ICT’s Leeanne and Michelle

 

Just some of things said by the I-YEL 2010-2011 in-takes at the launch……..

  • “I want to start up the first public library in Tonga”
  • “I want our parliament of be gender balanced”
  • “We need to stop deforestation in Ha’apai”
  • “I want to own my OWN land and register it under my OWN name”
  • “I want to live in a country to that doesn’t condone any type of violence especially violence towards women”
  • “I am a Marxist Feminist”
  • “Just believing in ourselves and what we are capable of is the first step”
  • “I believe in the rights of women and children”
  • “I want to be a good reporter”
  • “My mother raised me and my siblings on her own and she is my number one mentor”
  • “I want to help make Tonga a better place for women and girls to live in”
  • “We need to look at the connection between rising inflation and crime”
  • “I want to keep my own family name even when I get married”
  • “We are the future leaders of Tonga, it all begins here”

And from the mentors…..

  • “I wish that I had a mentor program like this 20 years ago because I’m sure it would have gotten me to where I am now a lot earlier – The sky is the limit and don’t let anyone tell you any different”
  • “I can see me in a lot of you many many years ago when I was young and ready to enter the world”
  • “If I can do it – you can do it!  Anything is possible”
  • “I entered the Tonga Defence Service because I wanted to make a difference and strive for gender equality within the TDS”
  • “We’re committed to make this happen – so if you show us your commitment we’ll take it all the way…”