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Samoa recommits to C.E.D.A.W.

Samoa has reaffirmed its commitment to promote and protect the human rights of all persons, and to advance its efforts to address discrimination against women.

Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development made the commitment on behalf of the Government through a recent live videoconference, which was fed into the United Nations 71st session of the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (C.E.D.A.W.) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Preparations for Samoa’s presentation began early last month with a three-day preparatory session and mock dialogue convened in Samoa’s capital Apia. It was led by the UN Women and facilitated by the Pacific Community (S.P.C.), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (U.N. O.H.C.H.R.) in partnership with Samoa’s Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.). 

Faimalotoa told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that socio-economic wellbeing of the Samoan people remained at the core of the country’s development initiatives, and highlighted what she said were important developments since the country’s last review in 2012.

She made reference to the first comprehensive legislative review of the Convention since its ratification by the Law Reform Commission, the constitutional amendment of June 2013 introducing the 10 per cent quota of female representatives in the Legislative Assembly, the passing of the Family Safety Act in 2013, the establishment of the Family Court of Samoa in 2014, and the passing of the Crimes Act and the Labour and Employment Relations Act in 2013. 

The Government remains committed to combatting all forms of violence against women and girls, and it was promoting safe families and communities, she added.  

Faimalotoa also highlighted the role of the National Council of Churches and the vital role it plays in addressing gender-based violence, through workshops and consultations among different church denominations within the country.

The UN Committee Experts said that in light of the adoption by the Samoan Parliament in 2017 of the Constitutional Amendment Act which defined the country as a Christian nation, how would the State party ensure a balance between Christian values and women’s rights.  Given the country’s dual system of State and village governance, the Experts inquired about the effective prohibition of gender-based discrimination at the village level. 

They further inquired about the timeline for the completion of amendments proposed by the Law Reform Commission, the powers and the mandate of the National Human Rights Institution, potential ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, lack of an explicit definition of discrimination against women in national law, the low number of traditional matai titles held by women, recognition of women’s committees in the village decision-making bodies, the role of church leaders in addressing gender-based violence, gender stereotypes in education, representation of women in the National Parliament, school dropout rates by pregnant girls, and the provision of comprehensive sexuality education to adolescents.

In her concluding remarks, Faimalotoa appreciated what she described as “thought provoking discussions” and the Committee’s suggestions and comments.  

She said local authorities would continue working to ensure that women and girls benefited from economic and social developments in all areas and Samoa would continue counting on the support of a broad set of stakeholders, national and international alike.  

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