Tongan gender equality advocates point finger at faifekau

Women advocates at a recent  roundtable discussion in Nuku’alofa perceived that their main antagonists are the church ministers, the faifekau, who propagate fear of the future.

There were at least four faifekau in the room. One of them shouted, “You women should know your place!”

The roundtable meeting was called to discuss the Tonga’s ratification of CEDAW. [The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women].

It was made up of relevant stakeholders from the community.

Vanessa Heleta who runs the Talitha Project for the development of young women said, “They are using the bible to say the male is the head of the family and they say to us don’t be selfish, women are under men – just be content where you are.”

“They all know it is unfair. When they say there is no need to address the gaps…I feel disgusted – absolutely disgusted,” she said.

Tuna Aleamotu’a, Technical Advisor to Tonga’s oldest women’s organisation the Langafonua-‘a-Fafine Tonga, said “I don’t have a place, where is our place? It’s everywhere. There is no place.”

“In a good loving home you don’t need to define a place to know where you are.”

“When the faifekau says women should know their place – it’s the faifekau who should know his place.”

“His place is to be humble and know his people. There are many women-headed households in Tonga – just see the census,” she said.

“But in my life, in our culture, I’m the head of the people who are dependent on me, somebody has to lead, so that we can survive.”

“But with my leadership I have to look at each one and cater for their shortcomings.”

“It’s difficult but it doesn’t mean that you lead and dominate, it doesn’t mean that nobody speaks and suggests anything.”

Only seven countries, including Tonga have not signed CEDA.

The other countries include Iran, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia – four nations known for their human rights violations.

The other two countries are Palau and the USA, which is regarded as “the only democracy that has not ratified the convention “- although internally President Carter signed CEDAW at its outset and President Obama has also committed wholeheartedly to it.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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