Youth call to address gender-based violence

The head of a youth-focused non-government organisation has called for action and awareness on gender-based violence and to treat women with respect.

Logopuialii Samoa Youth Organisation President, Nah Folasa, made the call in a speech on 25 November which coincided with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In a speech titled “unity is a must”, the head of the NGO said women continue to be susceptible to victimisation as they lack protection and are seen as having “fewer rights”.

He added that the inequalities and the lack of respect for women in Samoa are deeply rooted and the status quo has perpetuated men’s control and power over women while reinforcing the tolerance of gender-based violence.

Mr Folasa called for more awareness and community mobilisation to address the growing crisis, especially through social media, which he said can become an important component of a prevention strategy.

“One of the benefits of social media is the ability to crowdsource information and share it with others,” he further emphasised.

“Advocate for more youth violence prevention programs. The best way to end violence against women is to prevent it from happening. 

“Prevention should start early in life by educating and working with youths promoting respectful relationships and gender equality.”

On the issue of respect, Mr Folasa said husbands’ should respect their wives’ opinions as well as praise them.

“Respect and embrace diversity, respect your partner's right to disagree or have their own opinion. Most of all, praise women and girls for something other than the way they look. Changing starts with one’s self, be the change you want to see, stop violence against women.”

Samoan culture is also biased to men and denigrates women, Mr Folasa added, and pointed to the traditional roles of women as an example.

“Samoan culture is biased towards empowering men. Women are reserved to subservient roles (cooking, handicraft, child minding),” he added. “Religion in Samoa perpetuates these distinct roles. How many female pastors graduate from Malua or any bible school?”

“You must step beyond awareness to empowerment. Give women the same rights as men, not just token roles as chief executive officers and judges but for all women, especially those in the village. The village and schools is where programs should start.”

Going forward in terms of addressing gender-based violence, Mr Folasa said there should be harsher sentences for men who abuse women, and young girls in villages and at schools should be educated about their rights.

“Teach girls about love. If someone bashes you, that is not love. Alcohol is no excuse.”

And young boys should be taught respect, love, equality, proper sexual engagement and responsibilities, and the need not to partake in excessive faalavelave, which he said continues to “bleed money from struggling families” which is leading to stress.

When asked what Logopuialii is doing to eliminate violence against women, he said they are advocating for more youth violence prevention programs.

“We believe that's the best way to end violence against women is to prevent it from happening. Prevention should start early in life by educating and working with us promoting respectful relationships and gender equality,” he said.

“We have our ongoing programs(outreach programme, training) for youth to encourage and councell them on how to deal with this kind of issues-domestic/family violence.”

The Logopuialii Samoa Youth Organisation is a non-government organisation under the umbrella of Samoa National Youth Council. It was established in 2018 with their sole focus to encourage, empower and strengthen the youth of Samoa.

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