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Cyberbullying under the radar

Samoan sporting personality Gabrielle Apelu has set her sights on tackling cyberbullying and says the country has been silent on the issue for too long.

The former Manusina captain launched her new online anti-cyberbullying campaign this week which will revolve around the theme “O a’u o le Toa”.

“Samoa’s use of social media, Facebook in particular, has eclipsed that of the world and that of our Pacific neighbours. Unfortunately, having an online platform has allowed, encouraged and promoted many bullying (gender-based violence) behaviour against women and girls, children and those with disabilities, to run rampant without anyone being held to account,” she told Samoa Observer. 

“To the extent that gender based violence online has been normalized. There has not been enough noise on social media to condemn and to highlight that these patterns, language and behaviour are wrong and deplorable. “O au o le Toa” program is to educate, involve more of our peers online to take a stand and make a change so that more of our vulnerable people can remain safe.”

According to Ms Apelu, gender-based violence has become normalised on online platforms and there is not enough being done on that platform to highlight the patterns, language and wrongful behaviour.

“O au o le Toa” program is to educate, involve more of our peers online to take a stand and make a change so that more of our vulnerable people can remain safe.”

In an appeal to athletes and everyone else involved with sports, she said they can use the online platform to promote and educate the public on the dangers of cyberbullying. 

“We will be working quite in depth with teams and sport organisations to consolidate an invested group that will look to educate and instill awareness and change within the social media bubbles they are a part of,” she added. “Currently we are focusing on an online platform following very alarming statistics that show young people (women and girls in particular) in Samoa being victims of cyber grooming.”

To tackle the challenges associated with cyberbullying, Ms Apelu’s organisation Apelu Sports is in discussions with other partner organisations to ensure the message is right and made available on all social media platforms.

They have reached out to the Samoa Police Community Engagement Unit–Cybersecurity Awareness Program for a potential partnership, in order to add weight to their message of zero tolerance against online victimization.


“Our current partnerships are with Samoa Titans Women’s Sports Club, Samoa Tag Incorporated, Nuanua o le Alofa and Talitha Project – Tonga, who are some of the organisations that are already addressing this issue. We would like to partner with more, as the more noise we make, the wider the message can spread,” she added. “Our current partnerships are with Samoa Titans Women’s Sports Club, Samoa Tag Incorporated, Nuanua o le Alofa and Talitha Project – Tonga, who are some of the organisations that are already addressing this issue. We would like to partner with more, as the more noise we make, the wider the message can spread.”

Speaking on the anti-cyberbullying theme, Ms Apelu said standing up for something you believe in is scary and takes a lot of confidence but has to be done for justice. 

“Shedding light on controversial issues also takes a lot of confidence and support to be able to say something about it. “O au o le Toa” means you have to be strong (toa) brave (toa), and that strength comes from within you, to stand up for justice and to make a stand for what is right and for others,” she said.

Ms Apelu added that the sporting fraternity has not spoken out against cyberbullying with only two organisations Samoa Tag and NRL Samoa active in this space.

“With only two sports organisations who have active programs that address bullying specifically; Samoa Tag and NRL Samoa, the time is now for all of us to utilize our social media platforms to engage in positive conversations,” she said.

The program is currently looking for funding to support its work, Ms Apelu revealed as they’ve personally paid the bills out of their own pockets. 

“We are currently looking for funding. At the moment, we are running it on our own out of our own pockets,” she said. “It would be such a success on a bigger scale and garner more of national reach if we are lucky to secure funding.”

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