The statistics tell a sad story. Some 46 per cent of women in Samoa have experienced or are experiencing one or more forms of violence in their lives.
The good news is that not everyone is not staying silent.
On the 25th of every month, Samoa commemorates Orange Day.
The initiative by UN Women aims to create awareness and put the spotlight on different ways to stop this madness.
Last week, the UN Women hosted a Roundtable to put the spotlight on the issue. The guest speaker was Emma Marie Heard, from the School of Nursing at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S).
Ms. Heard has worked with the N.U.S for the past three years and has overseen the implementation of a range of sexual health and wellbeing programmes with students. She is studying for her PhD in Public Health at Queensland University, focusing on primary prevention of Intimate partner violence (I.P.V).
“Violence against women is a huge and global issue,” she told the Samoa Observer.
“There has been a lot of energy internationally about trying to address it. Intimate Partner Violence similar to domestic violence and it is the most common form of violence against women.
“So it’s something really sensitive, but it is really important that we talk about it and share ideas on how to solve this issue.”
Ms. Heard said the regional statistics are frightening.
“It’s a big health issue and it really impacts the lives of the women in our societies. So that is why it is really important that we address this issue.”
Prior to her PhD Studies, Ms. Heard used to work at the N.U.S as an Australian Volunteer. Her time there made her realize that there is a greater need to educate young people.
And that’s what inspired her to do a PhD on Public Health, focusing and looking at primary prevention of Intimate partner violence.
“We did a lot of work on sexual health and relationship with the young people.”
“We did some educational health promotion programmes and it was through talking to these young people it became clear that there are not enough opportunities for them to share and talk about these issues. They were really open and willing to talk about it, that is what inspired this research”.
How can we prevent violence from happening?
“Like I mentioned in my presentation, there are three types of preventions. We have the primary, secondary and the tertiary.”
“But as I mentioned before, primary prevention to me is the best way to address it and it’s the key. This is because primary prevention focuses on solving the problem before it happens. Or looking at ways to avoid this from happening.”
“My research focuses on primary prevention of intimate partner violence. We’ve done some secondary research, reading about what’s going on with violence against women in the Pacific, and it’s a huge issue.”
“Up to 80% of women in some countries experience or are going through one or more types of violence in their lives. And that has such a big impact not only for individuals but also for our societies.”
“It’s costing our health system, and it’s costing our work force and labor and all those kind of things.”
“And that’s why I really want to focus on prevention, because if we can prevent and educate our people on how to address this issue of violence against women at an early stage, then the damage would be minor.”
“And I think that’s the one thing that is lacking right now; you know internationally, there is this push on how to deal with it, once it happens, but I really want to push forward and encourage the idea that prevention is always better than cure.”
How can we do that?
“Through providing opportunities for practical skill development to build healthy relationships including, mutual respect, communication and building trust.”
Ms. Heard added that using drama really helps get the message out to people.
She recently hosted a Drama Workshop, which was used to explore concepts of healthy relationships. The workshop focused on building healthy relationship skills with young people as an essential primary prevention tool.
Research studies have found drama to be an effective means of delivering educational messages in other domains of learning, such as teaching health education to children and adults and engaging the general public in health policy development.
“It creates a safe space for the young people to share their ideas and experience and be able to express themselves and send their message across.”
“It’s like a mini-reality, where you can see things from other people’s perspective, practice and apply different things like a rehearsal for reality or a rehearsal for revolution.”
“My experience as a teacher is that drama, which is the act of doing something is much powerful than the act of being told something. And the act of embodying something is so much powerful than talking about it.”
“So I’ve been through so many workshops and given so many lectures and as a participant and as a facilitator, you know, there’s only so much that you can take in, by talking about it.”
“But when you do drama, you really embody this change and it’s a deeper and a longer-lasting and experiential learning which I think is very essential.”
* ED’s NOTE: This story was initially published on page 5 of the Samoa Observer on Wednesday 26th October 2016. It contained some inaccuracies that have since been corrected. The story is reprinted in full here.