Ministry underfunded to advance women, children
The Ministry of Women is mandated to promote and implement programmes for the advancement of women and children, yet it only receives 2 per cent of the national budget to do so.
In a written submission to the national inquiry into family violence conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman, the ministry admitted neither its legal mandate nor its funding provided the necessary provisions to respond to family violence.
“[The Ministry] receives 2 per cent of Government budget allocation and relies heavily on the support of donor partners for implementation of educational/awareness programmes,” the submission states.
The national inquiry report was officially launched on Wednesday and is the culmination of research, data gathering, public consultations and submissions that began in December 2016.
In the submission, the Ministry for Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.) was “quick to identify their own shortcomings”, according to the report.
It said the Women’s Affairs Act 1990 does not provide the ministry with necessary legal provisions to act on family violence.
The ministry told the inquiry that monitoring existing programmes is challenging and there is a gap for targeted and lengthy programmes for victims of violence and especially of sexual violence.
Unlike in other countries, Samoa does not have a national crisis telephone line, counselling centres, legal help, shelters, or financial support for victims of family violence.
Currently, Samoa has several small non-governmental organisations working in the area of family violence and enjoys little to no Government funding or support.
“For many years the Government has failed in its responsibility to provide these essential services, relying instead on the goodwill of communities and N.G.Os who are simply not equipped to deal with the full scale of the problem,” the report states.
“In failing to provide adequate services, support and prevention in relation to family violence [the Government] implicitly endorses its continuation.”
Furthermore, the inquiry learned how even the programmes the ministry does provide are hardly known about.
“Twenty-two per cent of respondents surveyed by the Samoa Family Safety Survey 2017 were aware of services provided by M.W.C.S.D., and 56 per cent were aware of those provided by the police.
“Despite this, it was clear to the Inquiry that M.W.C.S.D. undertakes commendable efforts on the insufficient budget they are provided with [and] a number of its civil servants demonstrate a commitment to and understanding of family violence that is a great asset to Samoa,” the report said.
The 2017 Samoa Family Safety Study conducted by the M.W.C.S.D. was a useful and frequently cited source in the inquiry report.
The report also commended their positive public education programmes like Positive Parenting, Mothers and Daughters, Young Couples and Teen Mums, which include both men and women promoting effective communication skills and non-violent ways to handle family issues.
“[These initiatives] demonstrate what can be done on a shoestring but the lack of Governmental support in terms of mandate and budget means that these will only ever be piecemeal and of limited impact,” the report said.