Tuvalu celebrates 16 Days of Activism

Government News

Issue No. 09/2020 – Thursday, 10 December 2020 (Kitiona Tausi)

Tuvalu celebrated the UN System’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence activities, from 25 November to 10 December. The global theme took place place under UN’s 2020 global theme: “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”.

The Gender Affairs Unit under the Ministry of Health, Soocial Welfare and Gender Affairs organized the celebration in Tuvalu. In his opening speech of the Traditional Leaders’ Consultation, the Minister of Healtl, Social Welfare and Gender Affairs, Hon Issaia Taape was shocked to learn of the seriousness of the impacts of domestic violence and said that about 4 out of 10 women suffered under domestic violence in the county.

The United Nations Secretary General’s Campaign (Unite to End Violence Against Women) calls for global actions to increase awareness galvanize advocacy efforts, and share knowledge and innovations.

“As the world retreated inside homes due to the lockdown measures introduced to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, reports showed an alarming increase in the already existing pandemic of violence against women.

“Accompanying the crisis has been a spike in domestic violence reporting, at exactly the time that services, including rule of law, health and shelters, are being diverted to address the pandemic,” stated the UN Secretary-General’s report, “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19“. 

“You can make a difference during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and protracted state of crisis it has generated across the world. You can support women and girl survivors of violence to stay safe and free of violence. Take action during this year’s 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence. For more information about “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” and action ideas, see this year’s concept note.

“The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. It was started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls use it as an organizing strategy.

In support of this civil society initiative, under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE campaign) calls for global actions to increase awareness, galvanize advocacy efforts, and share knowledge and innovations.

According to UN definitions: “Domestic abuse also called “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence”, can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorise, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. It can occur within a range of relationships including couples who are married, living together or dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. .

“Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, faith or class

“Victims of domestic abuse may also include a child or other relative, or any other household member.

“Domestic abuse is typically manifested as a pattern of abusive behavior toward an intimate partner in a dating or family relationship, where the abuser exerts power and control over the victim.

“Domestic abuse can be mental, physical, economic or sexual in nature. Incidents are rarely isolated, and usually escalate in frequency and severity. Domestic abuse may culminate in serious physical injury or death.”

In finding solutions to this crisis, as a Minister of Religion, for us in Tuvalu the international conventions of the Right of the Child and the Elimination of all Discriminations of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women may have exacerbated the situation. These conventions, however, give women the right to report these cases and these reporting create more tensions in the family.

Before Tuvalu accepted to these two conventions, women rarely report incidences of violence at the home, because of the marriage vow taken during their marriage, and any cases of domestic violence was a matter of the church and church ministers provided the counseling service to the couple and reconciliation was effected.

The main domestic violence used to be counseled by the minister was caused by the husband’s frequent drinking and sometimes the wife’s inability to fulfill her domestic duties, not caring for the children, lazy to cook food, not attending well when the husband returns from fishing or returning from the bush hunting for food or working the farm.

As a Minister of Religion and having taking care of a congregation in the early 1990s, I have counseled some couples whom their husbands were the cause of violence and I have successfully managed to solve their problem. What I did with them, I invited them to my home and in private I discussed with them and shared with them Jesus’ message of love and I prayed for them.

So with the current situation in Tuvalu, I am sure that the only solution to domestic violence is to counsel the couple with the message of love. We have one recent case on the capital where the wife was attacked by the husband with a knife which ended them all in hospital, I am sure they have not sought any assistance from a church minister or a counselor. Had they refer their case to a minister of religion; their case would have been solved before the incident.

So my advice for couples who are having issues between themselves or with their children, seek the counsel of a minister of religion or a qualified counselor. I believe in the power of God to interfere in our private matters to bring healing.

In some cases the couple were reluctant to refer their problem to the minister or the pastor who had been trained in their theological trainings in the pastoral ministry. They were not also aware of the pastoral care programme the minister is offering to members of his congregation.

That is why home visitations by the minister is an important part of his ministry where the minister establishes relationship with his members and able to know the situation of the family.  Some couples find it difficult to SHARE their problem to the minister, but the minister having trained as a counsellor, has techniques to allure the couple to freely share their problem to the minister. In this situation, the minister having learned of the situation the couple is going through will then able to offer his assistance through a programme of counselling.

Counseling is a very confidential matter and any counselor will not disclose his or her sharing with his or her client.

So domestic violence is not a new issue, it is happening in any society and it is a church issue unless the church is no longer active in its pastoral ministry, or otherwise the couple will seek assistance from other social counselors. I am sure EKT ministers currently serving in congregations continue to be active in counseling work under their Pastoral Care ministry.

The concern of Hon. Taape in opening the traditional leaders consultation was in fact correct when he urged island or traditional leaders to share their experiences and knowledge on how to stop domestic violence.

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