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Child rights advocate hopeful for conference

A Samoan International Children’s Peace Prize finalist is hopeful the country’s hosting of the historic 84th Extraordinary Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child next week will lead to better outcomes to protect child rights in Samoa.

Leilua Lino, 20, who was a finalist in the 2018 International Children’s Peace Prize told Samoa Observer that she hopes the conference will assist children whose voices are not heard as most of them do not know their rights.

“Most children are not aware of what their rights are which is why when something happens, for example, being physically abused they do not know who will protect their rights during times when their rights are violated,” she said. “Samoa hosting a conference on children’s rights is significant but I hope this can help children who are suffering instead of another chance to talk and no actions are taken.

Ms Lino, who is a victim of sexual abuse, said it is important for victims to know who to turn to.

“Speaking from a victim of sexual abuse’s perspective, it is important for a child to know who to turn to for help.”

Failure to identify a pathway to seek help for victims of sexual abuse can have ramifications, according to Ms Lino and these include suicidal thoughts. 

“During the time when I was also being victimised, suicidal thoughts were running through my head. My goal is to grow up and continue to tell my story in the hope of saving lives and for others to speak out against violence in any form.”

Thinking of her own experience as a rape victim, when she was sexually assaulted by her own biological father at the age of nine, Ms Lino said she was robbed of her rights as a child and she hopes next week’s conference will lead to tangible outcomes.

“As a person who has been through experiences that robbed me of my rights as a child, I hope this conference is important and will help the children of Samoa. So many things happen within families, yet the children are scared to speak up because of fear against families or fear of being ridiculed and embarrassed.”

“My goal is to grow up and continue to tell my story in the hope of saving lives and for others to speak out against violence in any form. As a person who has been through experiences that robbed me of my rights as a child I hope this conference is important and will help the children of Samoa.”

She added that if children did not have rights then how can they be protected when they are being mistreated.

It is understood a conference delegation will visit the Samoa Victim Support Group (S.V.S.G.), which Ms Lino currently calls home, next week as part of the conference program.

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