As the country goes into a 2-days lock down for the COVID-19 mass vaccination campaign, Samoa Victim Support Group is reminding our people that ‘Help is not on shutdown.’
As an essential social support service providing a 24 hour free Help Line, shelter facilities and counseling for the abused and the distressed, respectively, SVSG is anticipating an increase in callers to the Help Line during this lock down period.
From experience during the lockdown early in 2020, child abuse increases as the parents and the children were locked down together at home.
Intimate partner violence such as physical, psychological and sexual abuse increases as the lockdown had restricted the movement of women from their houses.
SVSG statistics recorded a 20% increase in domestic violence from 9 – 46 cases during the lockdown period in March 2020.
As such, SVSG will remain on the alert to respond to our people’s call for assistance during the 2-days lockdown; providing counseling support where relevant via the Help Line, while evacuating the victims and those at risk for shelter care, until the violent situations in their homes have been resolved.
The Chair of the SVSG Board, Georgina Lui acknowledges the partnership with the UNDP Spotlight Initiative for supporting SVSG’s response mechanism in place to address gender based violence in the context of the COVID-19.
“Thank you also to the long standing partnership with Digicel Samoa and Vodafone for supporting the free Help Line service to our wider community. Together, we can continue to look out for each other during these unprecedented times.”
The children survivors of violence and sexual abuse were special guests of the Honorary Consul of Germany to Samoa, Tagaloa Christa Szegedi, in celebrating the German Film Festival 2021 over the weekend.
Held at the Campus of Hope shelter facility for abused children and women, the place was basically transformed into a German community overnight, as the children resounded the basic Hallo – Hello; Guten Morgen – Good Morning; Guten Abend – Good Evening; and Auf Wiedersehen – Good Bye.
Dankeschȫn Christian & Barbara Durst for being patient teachers with the children and giving them facts and information about Germany leading up to the watching the film.
The finale for the night was a German Film called ‘Too Far Away’ which was one of the eleven movies featured in the 2021 German Film Festival.
Despite the film being in German language with Englisth subtitles, it immediately captured the children’s attention and they were glued infront of the screen for the duration of the film. Based on a 11-year old who struggled to fit in when his family moved to a new city, the clapping and cheering from the children indicated support for the main character, while their silence was errie. In the end, there was a good cheer from the children much to the delight of the German delegation that joined the children in enjoying the German Film Festival 2021
The children’s lunch and dinner for the day were all funded by the Honorary Consul of Germany to Samoa.
“Dankeschȫn H.E Tagaloa Christa Szegedi for choosing to celebrate the German Film Festival 2021 with the children of hope. You have time and time again reach out to support the children not only with the bedding furnishings you provided over the years, but more recently in 2020, a complete set of musical instrument to assist with the children’s healing.” Georgina Lui, Chair of the SVSG Board.
The newly set up Nofotane Market at the sub-village of Vaiafai Iva in Savaii, is the latest development of a European Union funded project by Samoa Victim Support Group, to support the ‘Sustainable Income Generation & Self Employment of Nofotane Women’ in Samoa.
Vaiafai Iva is about 6-8 minutes drive from the township of Savaii at Salelologa. It is home to five SVSG village representatives and 15 nofotane women empowered through the Nofotane economic empowerment program.
Having worked with the unemployed nofotane women survivors of violence of Vaiafai Iva since 2016, the transformation in the lives of these women todate is commendable.
One of them is Fetu Michael from Fatausi Savaii, who is now a nofotane woman of Vaiafai Iva. A mother of 6 who was busy with her stall at the Iva Nofotane Market when SVSG visited during the week.
Fetu did not learn a livelihood skill during the nofotane economic empowerment program in 2016. But she saw how the women who participated, were earning income from the skills they have learnt and she was inspired to become an earner herself. In 2020, Fetu requested to join the SHINE self-esteem program of the current Nofotane project and it was at this training that Fetu was reminded about her purpose, value and worth. From then onwards, Fetu had never looked back. According to Fetu, “Since joining the Nofotane Program, I started seeing the monetary value of any produce from our family plantation such as pawpaw, coconut, yam, taro and coconut. I even viewed my normal task of preparing food for my family as an added value to earning an income.” And that was exactly what Fetu was selling at the Iva Nofotane Market; fresh produce from the plantation plus a BBQ operated by relatives. Fetu’s ability to support her family as a bread winner proves valuable, especially given the financial hardships faced by many families due to the economic impact of the COVID-19.
Fetu’s husband, who works as a Bus Driver shared on the posivite changes in their family since Fetu was empowered through the Nofotane Program. “We are one happy family in Vaiafai Iva. Fetu’s market earnings has been a big help to us. There is no more violence as our financial situation has improved tremendously. We can afford to pay for our children’s education and a treat of ice cream every now and then. We have also opened up a savings account while being able to contribute financially towards the village and church obligations.”
With poverty being a risk factor associated with gender-based violence, SVSG’s ability to support the sustainable income generation and self employment of nofotane women, is an intervention towards this end.
According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “It has been five years now since SVSG had taken up the economic empowerment of women in the fight to end violence against women. And it is stories of change as shared by Fetu Michael and her husband that speaks volume of the impact of such an approach in achieving gender equality in Samoa. Thank you to the European Union through the Civil Society Support Program for funding the continuation of the Nofotane Program since 2020.”
They may be remotely located at the north west coast of Savaii, but there is a lot to be learnt from the theory of change developed by the village leaders of Fagaee, on how violence against women can and should be prevented in communities, from a Samoan perspective.
Samoa Victim Support Group has learnt of the secret behind Fagaee’s tranquility, in all its aspect, during the community meeting held at Fagaee over the week, as part of the research study that it currently works on with the University College of London.
Speaking during the community meeting, the high chief of Fagaee, Polataivao Pouvale highlighted the difference between working for the communal benefit compared to working for oneself; as the theory behind the orderly state of affairs within the village of Fagaee. “Fagaee is a family, not a village. As a family, everyone looks out for each other, thereby ensuring the safety of the whole community.”
As a chief and an influential leader within the village of Fagaee, this statement from Polataivao Pouvale carries a lot of weight for the research study, as it work to develop home-based prevention approaches to violence against women and girls in Samoa.
The meeting included village and women leaders of Fagaee. In developing its theory of change, there was an equal participation between the participants. While the young women blamed the men for causing the problems faced by the women, the elderly women disagreed, stating that both men and women are equally blamed. It was a fun exercise as the different opinions expressed during the meeting were resolved amicably, and a consenus was reached on Fagaee’s Theory of Change to prevent violence against women.
Fagaee is one of the 10 villages selected for a community study called “E le Sauā le Alofa” implemented locally by SVSG with virtual guidance by the lead research, Dr. Jenevieve Mannel of the University College of London. The project started in March 2020 for a period of four years and it is fully funded by the UK’s Research and Innovation Agency.
SVSG President, Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledges with humility how the village and women leaders of Fagaee continued to take ownership of their role in maintaining peace and harmony within their community. “Your ability to be adaptive and responsive to the necessary changes to prevent violence against women is invaluable and commendable. Malo lava faafetai.”
A Samoan youth employed as the Youth Officer for the Samoa Victim Support Group, is amongst 16 children and youth from 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, selected for the Statement Core Group on civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS).
Ms. Amalea Vaai is SVSG’s Youth Officer who joined children and youth representatives from Afgahanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand as members of the Statement Core Group. The Group is responsible for finalizing the development of the joint video statement from the children and youth of the Asia-Pacific region, to the 2nd Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific to be held on 16 – 19 November 2021.
The process started early February this year, where Ms. Vaai was amongst the 50 children and youth from Samoa who took part in the in-country consultation. Similarly, 50 children each from the other 10 countries held their own in-country consultations, where they shared their views on their life experiences on, and recommendations for the improvement of the civil registration and vital statistics in their respective countries.
These views were analyzed during a Regional Forum held in May, in which Ms. Vaai also represented Samoa. As a member of the Statement Core Group, Ms. Vaai has been attending weekly virtual meetings to translate the results from the in-country consultations, into a joint video statement for presentation to the upcoming 2nd Ministerial Conference.
SVSG’s involvement as the in-country partner is due to SVSG’s partnership with UNICEF Pacific on work with children. With the general consensus from the children and youth of the Asia-Pacific region that birth, marriage and death certificates form part of our human rights, the Statement Core Group has a hard task ahead on them, to ensure that the voices of the children and youth from the Asia-Pacific region is well represented by the joint video statement prepared for the Ministerial Conference im November..
“SVSG acknowledges the partnership with UNICEF Pacific, which had opened up the opportunity for children and youth from Samoa to represent the Pacific to such an important dialogue. Thank you also to the partners from the Child Rights Coalition (CRC) Asia, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and World Vision International, for such an important collaboration during this whole process.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Samalaeulu, a village situated on the northeast side of Savaii, is one of the seventh community taking part in a primary prevention program currently rolled out by the Samoa Victim Support Group in partnership with UNICEF Pacific.
The 2-years prevention program is to enable the 7 selected communities to have a better understanding of violence against children and are able to prevent and respond to the same. This is through meaningful engagement of the stakeholders including parents, matais, women, village council, church leaders, adolescents and youth, and children. It is the first ever program that SVSG had implemented where children and families at risk are brought together, to be part of the community dialogue to end violence against children.
Samalaeulu is the only community in Savaii taking part in the prevention program. According to Deacon Tulolo Feturi of the Samalaeulu Catholic Parish, the trainings on Life Skills for Adolescents as well as the Positive Discipline Parenting are amongst the first ever programs involving the community at Samalaeulu, and it is a timely intervention.
This is due to the fact that the community at Samalaeulu seems detached from what is happening around them as they are geographically located by the dangerous Maliolio River and the stretch of Lava Fields.
But as a village that is proud of its part in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Samoa as well as its resilience to rise up from the effect of natural catastrophies, it was therefore fitting that the Catholic Church at Samalaeulu opened up its doors to house the adolescent training for the program. There was a general feeling of positivity, of vibrancy, and an eagerness to learn amongst the adolescents, while the sharing and the owning up by the parents on how they have mistreated their children physically, verbally and emotionally, is a perfect start to greater things ahead for Samalaeulu, in protecting and caring the children.
From SVSG’s experience in working with the community, this is the influence that the Church-led commitments has on any community intervention to address violence, whether it be against women, girls, children or gender based.
According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “SVSG is glad that it has reached out to the community at Samalaeulu, and had started meaningful engagement with the key stakeholders there to support the parents in positively disciplining their children; while at the same time, teach the adolescents life skills to better protect themselves.”
“Thank you to the UNICEF Pacific for such a valuable partnership we’ve had over the years, and which continues to develop to date.”
One year ago, Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) was invited by the Au Uso Fealofani Methodist Women’s Group at Foga’a Faleula, to present on the work of SVSG on gender based violence.
It was an occasion that saw the Au Uso Fealofani donning their black attire in place of the white mu’umu’uusually worn by church ministers wives. The transformation was simply an act of solidarity by the Au Uso Fealofani during the official launch of the Thursdays in Black global campaign in Samoa, ‘Towards a World without Rape and Violence’ as per the motto of the Campaign.
Today marked the one year anniversary since that transformation, and the Au Uso Fealofani Methodist Women’s Group are congratulated for taking a bold stance in joining the global Thursdays in Black solidarity and advocacy campaign against all forms of sexual and gender based violence. Every Thursdays, the Au Uso Fealofani joined international church partners in wearing black to honor women everywhere facing violence and injustice. It was therefore an honor for SVSG to be invited to join such a worthy anniversary acelebration.
With the increase in sexual and gender based violence cases during the unprecendented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Au Uso Fealofani’s pledge to be part of the Thursdays in Black Campaign was not only timely, but fitting. This is given the stronger influence that the Church has on the daily lives of the Samoans.
As a human rights activist and an advocate for ending sexual and gender based violence, having women leaders in churches, taking a bold stance in the fight to end gender based violence, is a breath of fresh air.
“A heartfelt congratulations to the President of the Au Uso Fealofani Methodist Women’s Group, Mrs. Fialelei Faulalo Leti and members of the Group, for standing in solidarity with all women who are suffering from sexual and gender based violence within families and communities. Thank you also for the generous donation of $10,000.00 that you presented today to support SVSG, as part of the Thursday in Black anniversary celebration. Together, we can work ‘Towards a World without Rape and Violence’ ” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President