Matangi Tonga: Crisis Centre offers shelter for women and children

09/08/2010 14:52

Original avaliable here

WOMEN and children escaping violence now have a new place to consider. Based in Fanga 'o Pilolevu, the Women and Children Crisis Centre officially opened their doors on Dec 3, 2009.

"It's great news for the Kingdom!" says Centre Coordinator 'Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki "Now women and children have a safe place to go when they are facing crisis. And women and children can be certain that our centre is dedicated to protecting their rights".

The WCCC works towards the elimination of all forms of violence against women and children and the promotion of women and children's rights and gender equality. The centre will also operate a 24 hour, seven day a week temporary shelter accommodation for women and children escaping any form of violence, particularly that which they face in their own homes.

Trustees of WCCC were officially instated at the opening and include Dana Stephenson (Independant Lawyer), Lepolo Taunisila (RRRT / SPC Country focal point) and Dr. Sunia Filiaki (Medical Doctor). The Centre was launched in the middle of the White Ribbon Campaign to prevent violence against women, which runs until December 10, International Human Rights Day.

The Guest of Honour at the official opening, Tuna Kaimanu Fielakepa (Chair of the PPSEAWA Tonga & Technical Adviser Langafonua �a fefine Tonga) emphsised the necessity of the charter of WCCC. "What has been reported and the work that has been done around violence against women is just a drop in the ocean. Women have progressed in many areas of society but they continue to be victims of violence. It is an area of concern that we must work together to eliminate"

Keynote speaker at the opening of the Centre, Shamima Ali, Chair of the Pacific Women's Network Against Violence Against Women provided an overview of the situation in the Pacific. She stressed the importance of organisations like the WCCC in dispelling the myths about why violence happens. "Violence against women is caused by inequality between women and men, specifically unequal power relations. The imbalance in gender power relations is long-standing, historical and embedded in key social institutions such as the family, the Church, traditional culture and custom, the economy, the law, the education system, the media and the political system.
Underlying this systematic and institutionalized gender-based discrimination is a lack of understanding, knowledge and belief in the human rights of all people � which also contributes to an acceptance of violence generally in society as a way of resolving conflict," said Ali.

More than 150 people from various sectors such as NGOs, the Judiciary, the health sector and faith-based organizations turned up to join the WCCC in its celebrations. In true NGO fashion, the money received during the Tau'olunga performed by the staff went towards the Centre's rent for the month of January.

"We are all working together to eliminate violence in Tonga" said Guttenbeil-Likiliki "This year has been a hard one for Tonga � many women and children have lost their lives, including 4 women murdered in domestic violence cases, and one child in an abuse case. It's time for us to get active about eliminating violence against women and children." WCCC, 07/12/09.