Changing community attitudes to stop violence before it starts is a key part of the three-day workshop held at the F.A.O. Sub-Regional Office, facilitated by the Office of the U.N.
It started yesterday, and will finish tomorrow.
“It’s one thing to be a service provider like S.V.S.G, where they respond to somebody who is suffering from violence, but it’s another thing to talk about how to engage in the community to change attitudes, so that we can stop it before it starts,” said U.N Womens representative Suisala Mele Maualaivao.
Suisala said the workshop will include a focus on mapping, to determine who is already doing violence prevention work, as well as what it entails and if it is working. “There is not one answer to ending violence...we need the voices of everyone in the community, so that way we can solve this ourselves,” she said.
“We as Samoans need to come together to end gender-based violence, it’s not a woman’s issue or children or family...it’s everyone’s issue.” “Because it’s our issue, it’s not just about targeting women, it’s really about asking men to understand why these issues exist.”
Part of the discussions during the workshop relate to power dynamics and how people assert themselves and show authority.
Suisala said most violent people were victims themselves, repeating the cycle and thinking it’s normal. “We need to ask who their model is. Who told them that this is the way that they parent. That this is the way they are a partner?”
“[If] violence has been a part of their lives then most likely they will be like that too.”
”More people will say that they were beaten as children but they are now fine, but they don’t realise that they [are reminded] of their childhood all their lives, and that cycle has not been broken.” Suisala said she belonged to the generation that would bring about a massive shift in Samoa, to stop gender-based violence.
Samoan culture was not part of the problem, she stressed.
“It’s easy to blame the Fa’a Samoa when you don’t want to take the responsibility yourself, but Fa’a Samoa is the solution [for] solving this problem,” she said.
“In our Fa’a Samoa they cannot hit our wives or children, or abuse them because that’s not the Fa’a Samoa. Don’t blame the Fa’a Samoa but use it to solve this issue.”