TONGA’s uniqueness of culture in the way it assigned the roles of men and women provided a backdrop of respect and ultimate benchmark which women and girls should be empowered, according to the Niua Noble Representative in the Legislative Assembly, Lord Fusitu’a.
He also spoke on the importance of empowering women and girls without eroding the traditional values that provided them their unique status in Tonga.
His Lordship highlighted this in his address when attending a session on transforming gender and social in the Asian Pacific Region in the 3rd Regional Parliamentarians Meeting on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls in Siem Reap, Cambodia last month.
Lord Fusitu’a was invited to join a distinguished panel on transforming gender and social inequality session, chaired by a Federal Member of the Australian Parliament, Dr.Sharman Stone and fellow panellists from United Nation (UN) Women, United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA APRO), and a parliamentarian from the Philippines.
The objectives of this regional meeting were to improve parliamentarians’ understanding of violence against women and children among other things. It was also to increase the parliamentarians’ knowledge, commitments and understanding of the different national perspectives and experiences on eliminating Violence against Women and Girls.
The highlighted outcome of this meeting was the finalization of the ‘Siem Reap Commitment’, a Statement of Commitment by all the parliamentarians from the region in attendance.
Parliamentarians including Tonga Parliament committed themselves towards efforts to eliminate violence against women and children. The statement also acknowledged the vital role of male parliamentarians in promoting policy and legislative changes aimed at eliminating violence against women and children. It also noted the need to ensuring a high standard of wellbeing achieved for all women and their families through empowerment. Lord Fusitu’a was a member of the drafting committee that drafted this statement.
On October 26, the AFPPD’s Male Standing Committee on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls held its annual meeting. In this forum, parliaments including Tonga called for more practical measures on addressing PVAWG, to ensure continuity in the work of their committee and for closer cooperation with the AFPPD’s Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
Lord Fusitu’a represented Tonga at this Male Committee which resolved to elevate the Pacific including Tonga into the title of the AFPPD proper. The forum also endorsed to work in conjunction with the Women’s Committee to set tangible and achievable milestones in the lead up to Beijing+20.
At the outset, Tonga’s parliament has much to learn on how it can approach PVAWC. Lord Fusitu’a said, “Our Parliament, which also happens to be predominantly male, must take ownership of this problem and join the efforts of all our stakeholders committed to the cause of preventing violence against women and children. By empowering our women and girls, we are building our nation”.
The Legislative Assembly of Tonga is grateful to the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development for all its financial and technical assistance and for the opportunity to participate in the forum.
Tonga’s Parliament currently has a Select Committee on Population and Development which was established in July of this year. Amongst its Terms of Reference are issues broadly related to the prevention of violence against women and girls.
Lord Fusitu’a attended the three day regional meeting and accompanying official, Committee Clerk Sulia Makasini.
Other regional parliaments in attendance also included Kiribati, India, Cambodia, Maldives, Bhutan and others