Light shines on young girls of Tonga

15/07/2010 16:48

WCCC Community Education Trainer, ‘Asela Sauaki was a guest speaker at the Ha’apai Camp Glow - the week long sleep away camp for empowering young girls between the ages of 13 – 19. 

Sauaki talked to the young girls about sexual harassment. “It was quite a new topic for them even though many had experienced it while growing up. Most of the time they thought that they just had to put up with it, even when they had found it offensive and knew that it wasn’t right” said Sauaki.

Through this session the young girls were able to considersexual harassment and gain a fuller understanding of the concept. They shared many examples with each otherof sexual harassment that happens at school, and admitted that  the perpetrators are not only boys and prefects but also male teachers. The out-of-school youth were able to provide examples that occur at the workplace.

Participants were given work in groups to discuss the effects on girls at school and women at work when they are sexually harassed. These effects included students not attending class, being stigmatized and ultimately dropping out of school and impacting on their education and choices. The effects on women included either feeling pressured to accept the situation to keep their jobs, or losing their jobs and income (with flow on effects for the family and community) as well as feelings of guilt and shame. Overall participants concluded that harassment makes girls and women fear interaction with men. 

Participants expressed relief after realizing that it is possible to talk to people about the issue  or confront the harasser by telling them that what he is doing is “not ok”. The session also provided information on how to report sexual harassment to authorities with an understanding that sexual harassment is not the victims fault “We talked about how it all goes back to gender roles -how we are brought up as boys and girls. Men continue to hold power and authority in our society, and sexual harassment is an abuse of that power.” said Sauaki.