New Tonga NGO aims to step up choices for Women and Children escaping violence.
The commencement this week of a new Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) for Tonga is good news for the Kingdom and comes at a time of year when global activism against violence against women steps up the pace for 16-days. But if the faces and the work of the Tonga Crisis Centre team look familiar, it’s because they are.
Crisis Centre Coordinator ‘Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki with 16 of the 17 staff of the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children (TNCWC) walked out on the 30 October on their previous jobs, tired of long-running grievances with the governing Advisory Board, which says Guttenbeil-Likiliki, “it just meant that we could not be independent from government and ensure our full autonomy as an NGO – and we so we couldn’t give fully and effectively of ourselves to the people we work with. It was not a sudden walkout and was a last ditch method after unsuccessful methods of engaging was exhausted. But we did it, and we wish the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children (TNCWC) well in their future activities.
Stepping out of paid NGO activism and into the less certain realm of volunteer work was not a decision the newly established WCCC team took lightly.
“Our members have families to support and bills to pay like everyone else, but they have insisted to continue our services and support – even if it means voluntary work –so that women and children know someone out there cares about their welfare when they are suffering any form of violence at the hands of those they love and trust, if its domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and harassment or any form of child abuse – we are here for them. This was our first step after leaving the TNCWC – affirming amongst ourselves our wish to remain together and give this work another shot,” says Guttenbeil-Likiliki. “So if you are a donor out there who can appreciate our situation, we would love to hear from you!” she laughs.
The WCCC was registered last week with the Ministry of Labour, Commerce and Industries, while moving into the new offices with makeshift and donated furniture. The WCCC is operating as a Collective, the Staff Collective, Management Collective and the Reference Group Collective.
Under the Management Collective there are three (3) Trustees who will ensure that the centre operates in accordance with sound legal and financial practices.
Guttenbeil-Likiliki says, “we have a real sense of excitement and purpose, and the staff are feeling the pinch in their pockets of being volunteers, but they don’t dwell on it. We just want to do the best job possible with what we have, for families affected by violence. We’re happy to collaborate with NGO’s and relevant government departments whose work in Tonga supports work around *Ending Violence Against Women and Children.*
The moving-on energy has meant the week started with a full plate. The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) hosted a one day regional meeting on Monday 09 November of the Pacific Network Against Violence Against Women Reference Group. “We had five heads from Pacific centres, networks and organizations working towards the elimination of violence against women and children to talk over the development of a new training / communication handbook on Male Advocacy, so we’ve hit the ground running, so to speak.
A formal public launch of the WCCC will be held along with an open-day on December 03 as part of the 16-days of activism campaign, says Guttenbeil-Likiliki. “But, for this week it’s been great having the support and encouragement the Pacific Network, especially the Chair of the network and Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Ms. Shamima Ali who herself has given and proven best practice leadership to the FWCCC for 25 years.”
“Domestic Violence, rape, sexual assault / harassment and all forms of child abuse is still largely un-reported in Tonga, and part of the work of the WCCC is to raise awareness of these issues and encourage more women and children to come out and speak out against these types of violences and more importantly for the community to understand and know that violence against women and children is a crime” says Guttenbeil-Likiliki.
The WCCC staff will continue carrying out the work it did previously but now we will be able to intensify our advocacy role with greater freedom and autonomy.
The new staff collective of the WCCC are Vika ‘Akauola, Kilisitina Pifeleti, Leti Siliva, Susana ‘Uhatafe, Latai Peauafi, Lu’isa Samani, ‘Asela Sauaki, Sela Sausini Tu’ipulotu, Foketi Kavapele, ‘Usaia Hemaloto, Sione ‘Akauola, Mapakiefa Finau, Ma’ake Manu, Leeanne Torpey, Sr. Anuncia Fifita and ‘Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki.
The new WCCC head office is located in Fanga ‘O Pilolevu directly behind the Free Weslyan Church off Taufa’ahau Road. The Mo’ui Ke Fiefia Shelter is a private location with 24 hour, seven day security. The 24 telephone counseling line is 22 240. Along with the counseling and care support, team members of the WCCC staff collective will be focusing on community education, advocacy and research and lobbying for positive policy and legislative change, women’s empowerment and male advocacy.
You can listen to the Radio Australia interview here.