Young Samoan activist joins global campaign

A local advocate for sexual assault survivors, Leilua Lino, recently joined the virtual launching of a “no more” campaign by the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat and the NO MORE Foundation.

The campaign, according to a Commonwealth Secretariat media release, is designed to help tackle the rapid increase in domestic and sexual violence due to the impact of COVID-19. It will aim to provide support for governments, organisations and individuals confront the issue through longer-term prevention strategies and support.

The launch was held at a virtual event attended by representatives and advocates from across the Commonwealth, who represented nearly one third of the world’s population.

According to the statement, the event partners unveiled the first pan-Commonwealth digital portal designed to support governments and civil society in identifying and implementing joint solutions, while also providing individuals with concrete actions they can take to support both the campaign and those affected by domestic violence.

The new ‘Commonwealth Says NO MORE’ campaign is launched at a time when organisations across the globe have seen calls to hotlines for victims of abuse and demand for support services rise from between 25 and 300 per cent during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Even before the pandemic, one in three women across the world are beaten or sexually abused within their lifetime, making it a leading cause of death in women and girls.

The Commonwealth Says NO MORE pledge, as part of the initiative, leaders, celebrities and individuals globally are taking the ‘Commonwealth Says NO MORE’ pledge towards ending domestic and sexual violence.

Ahead of the launch, many shared video messages endorsing the effort and encouraging other people across the 54 Commonwealth countries to get involved. Among them are Kiribati President Taneti Maamau, Antigua and Barbuda’s Governor-General Sir Rodney Williams, New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark, British singer and Royal Commonwealth Society’s Ambassador Geri Horner, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, Indian actress and advocate for women’s rights Shabana Azmi, Pakistani actress Mahira Khan, Ghanaian actress Joselyn Dumas, British actor Colin Salmon and Australia actor Ryan Johnson. 

The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, speaking at the launch of the portal, said that it is indisputable that while the virus will pass one day, for many women, the ever-present threat of violence will remain.

“COVID has emphatically exposed just how urgently we need a cure to flatten the rising curve of domestic and sexual violence. Business-as-usual is not an option,” she said.

“That is why we are announcing this first-of-its-kind portal, offering an impressive array of expert resources and tools to support concerted action by everyone from governments to private individuals. We must all use this opportunity to redouble our efforts to tackle and end this violence now.

“We need to say NO MORE because if we don’t have peace in our homes we will never have peace in our world.”

It is not the first time for Ms Lino to participate in an international gender-based violence connected event, as last year she was invited to London to receive the Commonwealth Innovation Award recognising her work supporting other victims of sexual violence.

The award, which was also presented to 14 other winners from throughout the Commonwealth, coincided with the 70th anniversary celebration of the Commonwealth.

In 2018 she was one of three finalists for the International Children’s Peace Prize, which is run by the Amsterdam-based not-for-profit organisation KidsRights Foundation.

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