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.”