Young men in Tonga attending the Male Advocacy on Eliminating Violence Against Women Stage I Training since Tuesday have been undergoing intensive training on gender equality and sensitivity, women’s human rights, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment and child sexual abuse.

Three days into the training the young men agreed that violence
against women is not part of Tongan culture neither is it based on
religious teachings, following a discussion based on “does culture and religion have a part to play in condoning violence against women?”

Many of the participants told the lead trainer Shamima Ali of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre that they believed that culture and religion is just used as an excuse to condone the violence, however they felt that after going through the gender training where they named the violence and heard from the experiences of survivors through examples and case studies presented  – that they strongly believed that violence against women is a result of gender in-equality and the imbalance of power structures,

“….how can we say that rape or kicking and bashing women is part of our culture?   If that is what we are saying then Tongan culture is nothing to be proud about,” said one of the youngest participants.

During the opening ceremony on Tuesday, the Guest of Honour, Rev.
Makisi Finau said that “we must always remember one of the fundamental
principles of Christianity “that we are all equal in God’s eyes which
means we all should enjoy the same rights whether you are a man, woman
or child.”

Meanwhile the training has also encouraged the young men to understand
the core principles of human rights where they have been able to make
the linkages to violence against women.

The participants represent a wide cross section of Tongan society –
including Police men, ministry leaders, youth and health workers and
other Non Government Organisations.   The four day workshop is being
held at Molitoni Hall in Kolomotu’a and ends on Friday.

The training  was possible through the suport of UNFPA and AusAID.
The Male Advocacy Program and Training is an initiative of the Pacific
Network Against Violence Against Women.

(ENDS)

For more information on the Tonga training please contact ‘Ofa on +676
22 240 or email wccrisiscentre@gmail.com  or for more information on
the Male Advocacy Program and Training Stages please contact the FWCC.