Samoa
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Violence Against Women & Children Continues to Rise

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 29 NOVEMBER 2022: This weeks’ 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against women and children in Samoa, is launched against the background of a despicable growing social problem “that is spreading like fire”. This is despite the huge investment in time and money in numerous public awareness and community efforts over the years.

For 10 years since Samoa joined the world in the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism for a violence-free world, the number of local cases continues to rise.

“It is a despicable growing social menace that is spreading like fire,” according to the Minister of Women and Social Development, Leota Laki Lamositele.

In 2000, the Samoa Family Safety Study found that 46% of women had experienced domestic violence from their husbands/partners in their lifetime.

In 2017, that number rose to 60% and consultations conducted with stakeholders recorded 87% of women experienced threats of violence, 86% subjected to physical violence specifically and about 10% raped by a family member and most cases happened in the homes.

“Ten years of reviews, refocusing, reformulation of policies, legislation, planning of frameworks, structures but sadly with very disappointing results,” said Leota Laki Lamositele.

He also pointed out the economic costs of violence on families which is “estimated between $98m and $132m, which is approximately 6 to 7% of our GDP.

“The recorded figures are an indicator that families, communities, our children, people with disabilities, women and girls and men are no longer safe,” he said.

Past failures & the perseverance drive
What is missing that could have made the program successful?

The Government and stakeholders have undergone many workshops and have changed and amended policies and regulations as a means of finding a successful solution.

The new strategy is now with the theme: “Malu i Fale, Malu i Fafo” – Safe in House, Safe Outside – as the advocacy platform for the fight to end violence against women and girls at home.

According to Leota, the concept signifies the role of the family as the shelter for each of its members.

violence Parade Aufaga youth
violence Parade Aufaga youth

The Aufaga village youth taking part in the campaign.

Va Tapuia – the Sacred Space
Leota believes the ideal representation of the home being a safe haven can be described by the design of a Samoan fale, where the front structure is in coherence with the back structure and the oval sides on both ends basically tighten the whole fale structure that allows for a space in the middle to exist. “That space is a safe haven for everyone.”

That is the Va Tapuia – the figurative Sacred Space that the occupiers should respect by their speech or actions so as not to disrupt that space otherwise the house will collapse. It is critical therefore for that space to exist in harmony.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to provide adequate support to keep that SPACE in harmony over the past years despite many different approaches and today we are gathered to try once again.Cultural Strengths & Spiritual Development – a Mechanism in Ending Violence Against Women  & Children
Ten years is a long time to reflect upon the journey and identified why the programs failed and what targeted areas that needs to be addressed.

The Ministry has identified areas such as incorporating traditional and cultural strengths, elements and knowledge in the Plan. They also need incorporated spiritual development as a significant part of their advocacy programs and strengthen coordination with the help of communities and partners.

The emphasis was also placed on focus programs on families to improve the way programs and information are communicated.

violence Parade police1
violence Parade police1

The various groups congregating infront of the Government Building for the program launch.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Intergenerational Dialogues on Safe Spaces for our Women and Girls, Persons with Disability, Children and Men.”

Orange was the original colour for the program. However, this year, the Ministry has changed it to Black which signifies power, elegance and solidarity.

“That using Black for this campaign we can stand together to end all forms of violence. I am told that the change of colour is not a snob to the rest of the world but more a publicity strategy to enforce our message for change. I sincerely hope that this change of colour will have a positive impact on this campaign,” said Leota.

As a kick start for the 16 days of Activism event, the Government Ministries, Corporations, private sector, schools and various organisations joined the parade led by the police band down beach road to commemorate the event on Monday morning.

The participants, comprising women, men, youth groups, children and students congregated in front of the Government Building to raise the flag before the formalities to start the commemoration with various events and daily activities provided to get the message out and look to some change from this years’ 16 Days of Activism.