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The vicious school attack and its effect on addressing gender-based violence

Schools are institutions of learning for our children. They are supposed to guarantee safety for students, teachers and staff and provide a conducive environment for Samoa’s next generation to be moulded and imparted with knowledge to prepare them to face the world.

But last Thursday the unthinkable happened in front of Vaivase Primary School. Four unidentified women descended on the school and attacked 41-year-old mother Lesina Fidow, as she waited to pick up her four children, who happen to attend that particular school.

It was a cowardly attack. The four women dragged her from her car, stripped and beat her up, in front of her terrified children. Mrs Fidow told this newspaper that she had to be hospitalised for four days following the horrific attack.

There is no doubt her children remain traumatised to this very day, having seen their mother assaulted by these gang of four. The women appeared to be on a vicious mission and decided that of all places – they will attack her outside a school and in front of her children – again shameful conduct.

"Our own personal motherly and friendly dramas [are] causing my son to stay home because he’s scared to go to school now," she said.

She says the attack ended shortly after a knife pierced the right side of her head. 

“I [had] nothing else on my mind but my children and I got to admit I was scared that something worse might happen to me in front of my children and worse, I was naked all over.”

Vaivase resident Motiana Aukuso, who witnessed the brazen assault, described how the victim’s children yelled out for help when their mother was attacked.

"Whatever reasons those women had, they should’ve done it without her children looking. We all do not know what the real issue is and who is right or wrong but my point is, we are all Samoans and having children involved in a situation like this is indescribable.”

The irony behind this story is the concerted effort that the community is making to address gender-based violence which victimises women in Samoa. Various studies over the years including the Office of the Ombudsman’s two-year inquiry – which was released in September 2018 – highlight alarming statistics in Samoa. The Office of the Ombudsman Inquiry concluded that 90 per cent of intimate partner violence in Samoa goes unreported.

Gender-based violence in all its forms is unacceptable. But what do we do when women are viciously attacking other women, dragging them out of cars and assaulting them in front of their children? Why should our children in schools be exposed to violent behaviour, this time perpetrated by women? Should women be peacemakers in our communities rather than become agents of disunity and violence as happened last Thursday? 

It is tragic that the four women who perpetrated the attack choose to overlook community dispute resolution mechanisms such as the village councils or even the Police to address their grievance. And taking the dispute to the front yard of a community school – in full view of the students and parents picking up their children – was totally unacceptable. 

It appears Mrs Fidow knows the identities of two of the four women. We hope she does the right thing as a law abiding citizen and lay a complaint with the Police so her assailants can be charged for assault. She needs to take that step so such behaviour in the future  is not condoned or promoted and instead condemned. 

The actions of the four women is also a disincentive to the gender empowerment movement, where women leadership is critically needed to turn the tide and fortunes of the people, in a male-dominated society.

And let us not forget too that violence begets violence. Therefore, having women as the perpetrators of such violence does not augur well for a loving, peaceful and violence-free community that we all aspire for.

Have a lovely Thursday Samoa and God bless. 

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