Educate your boys, U.S.P. student says

People should be saying “educate your boys” rather than “protect your girls” when it comes to sexual abuse in Samoa.

That is the view of University of South Pacific (U.S.P.) Alafua Campus student, Victory Tuala Tamalelagi, after he attended an awareness programme on sexual abuse last week run by the Pasefika Mana Samoa Social Service Trust Director, Maria Levi.

The second-year law student said the programme made him realise that no matter what people say or do in relation to the issue, sexual abuse remains prevalent in Samoa and the Pacific islands.

"People tend to try and cover it with labels saying it’s this and that saying it’s cultural and it’s family,” he said in an interview with the Samoa Observer.

“But it doesn’t negate the fact that it’s wrong and so when those guys came here and they showcased what they have to do, it makes Samoa a bit safer knowing that they’re actually doing something to put a stop to this.

“By doing that, I get to sleep at night a bit safer, just having the realisation that people are actually doing something about it and not just speak about it.”

The awareness program targets schools and educational institutions in Samoa, including the U.S.P. Campus with Mr Tamalelagi hoping that it can inspire and lead to a change of mindsets.

He said the awareness program presenters have a thorough understanding of the issue, but he wanted to have a “deeper understanding” of what is at stake, which is why he asked them questions.

The discussions during the awareness program compelled him to recall controversial statements attributed to the Catholic Church’s senior clergy Father Muliau Stowers on how girls should dress. 

"I did not like the way the pastor [Father Muliau] said about the girls. It was as if he was degrading women. Do we not have the right to dress or be who we want to be? We talk about human rights and then now they negate the fact that girls can wear or do whatever they want.”

A lot of work remains to be done to rid society of the scourge, according to Mr Tamalelagi and these can include changing perceptions to focus on changing attitudes among boys rather than girls.

"There’s a lot we can do. There’s this saying that people like to say ‘protect your girls’ and those are what the parents say to other girls, and that’s the one thing I hate and so I like to cross that out and say ‘educate your boys’," he further emphasised. 

"When you grow up, a family tends to seclude the women and the girls on one side and let the males do whatever they want and that’s why when they grow up, they wreak havoc on other people’s families because they weren’t educated at a young age but if they are educated along the way, they will grow up to be respectful."

Looking at his own upbringing, Mr Tamalelagi said he was raised by his parents but his sisters taught him the values of life and what to do and not to do.

"Most of the population in Samoa around the age of 19 already have kids, but I am 21 and I’m still striving to see the future because the mindset that was instilled in me at a young age was a good one. Do this, do that and don’t do that.”

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