A Samoan girl, who overcame her own personal trauma to share her story to support victims of sexual abuse, has celebrated the biggest moment of her life meeting Prince Harry at the Marlborough House in London.
Leilua Lino was the recipient of special prizes presented by the Duke of Sussex during a garden party celebrating the Commonwealth’s 70th anniversary.
Ms. Lino was among 14 other innovators in international development who received a trophy, certificate and £2,000 (T$6,743).
Held at the Commonwealth headquarters in Marlborough House, London, the awards recognised, celebrated and showcased impactful innovations and forward-looking solutions which help Commonwealth countries develop and advance the Commonwealth charter values.
“Leilua was raped by her own biological father at age 9 and was evacuated under Samoa Victim Support Group’s shelter and care in 2011,” said a statement from the Commonwealth.
“In 2018 she walked tall to court and achieved justice against her father who is now imprisoned for 29 years.
“Following her traumatic experience, she created a Peace Garden in 2017 as her way of healing from her experience of gender based violence. To date the Positive Movement has reached 20,000 children.”
The winners were selected by an independent jury, based on the impact or potential of their innovations to advance one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, congratulated Ms. Lino and the other award winners.
“I hope you are as impressed as I am by the talent that is mobilised and multiplied through Commonwealth connection," she said.
“There are also many other inventors and innovators of all ages in every country and community of the Commonwealth and it is they who drive us on towards a future of health, hope and harmony.”
The competition aims to shine the spotlight on revolutionary ideas that could improve prosperity, protect our planet, promote peace and justice and encourage partnerships in the Commonwealth.
Nitesh Kumar Jangir, from India, co-founded a medical device company designed to prevent deaths in the field of emergency and critical care. Rosette Muhoza, from Rwanda, co-founded a social enterprise that ensures environmental sustainability through recycling plastic waste into construction materials.
A visibly-excited winner, Joanna Ewart-James, said the award signifies that ending modern slavery is a priority for the Commonwealth.
Fellow winner and company C.E.O. Elizabeth Kperun was chosen for her idea to simplify learning for African children and young adults by creating mobile applications and video content which educated them in their native languages.
“This award will give us more visibility. It goes a long way towards helping us achieve our objective of making education more accessible for under-privileged kids in Africa,” she said.
This is the first year of the awards, which were open to all citizens and organisations of the Commonwealth’s 53 countries.
Story from Samoa Observer.
Finding myself as I journeyed
Leilua Lino, London
“Dear Lord, as I go through what has been planned for me today; Help me see clearly your plans for my simple life.”
That was my silent prayer as I woke up in London on this second day of my journey.
Today, I met the other awardees like me. It’s funny because I never thought that you could be awarded for being a survivor. But who am I to question God’s purpose for my life?
There are six of us, and as we were introduced to each other and started sharing our stories, I could see how my life differs from the others. I could also see how I am fitting in well with the others. Oh how grateful I am to God for making all of this happen.
I listened to how they wanted to be successful in life; as for me, this is me. I am just a student at the School of Hope still searching for what life has in store for me; an abused survivor who releases her anger by digging the soil; who finds peace in planting a Garden. All I know is that I want to make a difference in the lives of other children like me.
And as we visited the museum in the afternoon, I wished that my brothers and sisters at the Campus of Hope were here to enjoy this moment together with me. It is a whole new world out here, but I chose to follow my passion and make a difference, one child at a time.
The big day is tomorrow, where the learning throughout my journey to London will be put to the test.
I am slowly seeing God’s plan for me, as I continued my journey with an open mind.
When I left Samoa for London on Tuesday afternoon, I have to keep pinching myself to check if I was dreaming. I was bound for a journey to a far away place that I’ve only heard of, and seen in the movies. I was scared and excited at the same time, but above all, I was curious. Who would have thought 10 years ago that a lost, angry and broken child, will one day be able to smile at the world again. I am survivor, and this is my journey….
I was transformed from head to toes like a model. Thanks to the kindness of my mentor Justice Vui and his lovely wife Nynette, I was all dressed up ready to meet some very important people awaiting me in London.
Thank you Justice Vui for always encouraging me to be brave, and for taking time out to wish me well on my trip.
By the time I reached Faleolo airport, I was in my travelling clothes, courtesy of MaugaLui. I was a bit more relaxed. I felt so pretty in my casual skirt and top.
With Mama Lina by my side, I was ready to embark on this life changing journey.
We flew from Apia to Auckland and immediately, I wanted to go back home. The weather was freezing; I was tired. But according to Mama Lina, we were just on the first leg of our journey. After a hot meal, I was taken shopping for some more warm clothes. Next stop: Hong Kong, some 12 hours later.
I lost track of time and fatigue crept in. But as soon as we arrived at Hong Kong, my curiosity got the best of me. I looked around me in amazement; taking in everything, the people, the environment, the big buildings. I realized I was far away from my Peace Garden at the Campus of Hope, and I missed my brothers and sisters there. But Mama Lina said, “the journey must go on.”
At last, we boarded the flight to London with a smile, knowing that we will get to our destination soon.
I was mistaken. I slept for hours, only to wake up to see white clouds outside my window. It was a 13 hour flight and my face says it all, as I pushed our trolley outside of Heathrow airport.
By midnight, we finally sat down at the Strand Palace Hotel for dinner. I felt like a princess, as I was served and treated as one. I had to eat with a fork and a knife, yes, it was all new to me. But I have been practicing.
This morning, I am dressed up in a beautiful light blue elei puletasi, gifted by Justice Vui & Nynette. I am suddenly overwhelmed with confidence, as I look forward to my first external visit as arranged.
They said the best of the trip is yet to come, but as a survivor on a journey, I am appreciating the adventure, one day at a time. In humility, I praise God for without His love, I would not be here today!
The initial results of a survey by ECPAT International to gather the perceptions of frontline welfare workers on the sexual explotation of children (SEC) in the Pacific was launched in Suva over the week. The survey was carried for welfare workers in seven Pacific countries including Samoa, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga and Kiribati. The results offer a snapshot of the SEC in the Pacific, and key issues affecting children.
Amonsgt the most alarming results include (1) Boys and girls are victims of sexual exploitation; (2) Exploiters are often family members and those within the child’s circle of trust; and (3) Children experience multiple levels of vulnerability to sexual exploitation (due mainly to ‘living and/or working on the street’ and ‘poverty’.
As a member of ECPAT International, Samoa Victim Support Group had assisted with designing the survey and later, the coordination of the survey with 12 frontline welfare workers in Samoa. The results of the survey, eventhough alarming, are not new to SVSG and its child protection role.
(1) The residence of the Campus of Hope attest to boys and girls being victims of gender based violence; (2) the horrific cases of incest at the Supreme Court speaks of family members being perpetrators against their own children; and (3) the increasing number of child vendors on our streets exposed them to multiple level of vulnerability to sexual exploitation.
The results from the survey together with the views expressed by the frontline workers who attended the survey result launch, will assist ECPAT International in Bangkok with drawing up a Final Report. In due time, the welfare frontline workers will be able to develop their own National Plan of Action to advocate for legislative and program support, towards eliminating the sexual exploitation of children.
For SVSG, it is a welcoming opportunity to partner with the Samoa Family Health Association in raising awareness on the sexual exploitation of children in Samoa, hence supporting its elimination.
According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang who attended the survey launch together with the Director of the SFHA Lealaiauloto Liai Iosefa-Siitia, “there is strength in working together with valuable partners to carry out community awareness programs given the cultural taboos when discussing sex.”