The Asau Village Council has a zero tolerance for violence against women.
To prove they are serious, they have recently approved policies that will see men who assault their wives ban from the village.
This was confirmed by the village’s Member of Parliament and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, who is also a chief in the village of Asau.
“The females are the most precious beings on this earth,” he said.
“They are gentle and at the same time, they get things done.
“That is why for Asau Village, our women are special. We will do everything within our authority to assure that our women are protected, even from their husbands,” said Lopao’o.
He says the policy is fairly new and it coincides with the campaign by the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development to stop the violence against women and children.
“The fact that this has been preached in every corner of our country, it’s about time that our concerns are addressed in the villages and that something is done about it.
“It all comes down to us, men who are the head of the families and chiefs in our villages.
“We see the issue and we step in to fix it. Asau does not condone violence against their women.
“Women from Asau and women who are married into our village, are all protected,” he said.
The Asau chief points out the impact of violence equates up to a range of impacts.
“Sometimes the consequences results in death, all because women feel worthless when their husband continue to do this nonsense of beating her and saying demeaning things.
“It negatively affects women’s well-being and prevents women from fully participating in society.
“We are at the time and age for men to realize that women should not put up with any type of attack, whether it’s physical or verbal.
“Violence not only has negative consequences for women, but also their families, the community and the country at large,” he said.
According to Lopao’o, they will also ban men and women who are convicted of sexual offenses.
“We will not tolerate such behavior in Asau.”
He adds Samoan women do not need experts from off island telling them that we need to empower our women.
“No, I don’t agree with that, Samoan women were born empowered.
“As a Samoan girl, they have roles to play in the homes, churches and villages and by the time they are of age, their responsibilities changes and they are tasked to see through many projects that the Aualuma are assigned with in terms of developments in the village such as weaving fine mats and other projects.
“In Asau, we have the village council and we also have the Aualuma Women’s Group.
“We meet and they meet and if they have issues, the leaders of the Aualuma meet our Village Council.
“So you see our women play a huge role in what happens in Asau.
“Our women also have a voice in the decision making of issues within the village.
“Women are treated equally,” said Lopao’o.
“And I am proud of what Asau has so far in terms of eliminating the mentality of men that they can treat women differently.”
The Minister hopes other villages will follow the example that Asau has put in place.
“One can only wish that this initiative will be considered by other villages.
“I am not telling anyone what to do, but merely asking that they consider the need for this issue to be addressed in the villages.
“An issue that will be discussed and the Village Council must act on it, not just talk about it and not take any action.
“This issue should be addressed to the families in the villages and in the churches, we must act on the right away,” said Lopao’o.
In May 2017, the C.E.O. of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa, said the government was looking to work with village councils to ensure men who beat their wives were held accountable and punished as a village offense.
The concern by the C.E.O. follows the result of the “Family Safety Strategy” survey which shows that incidences of domestic violence where women are physically, emotionally and sexually abused have increased by 20 per cent in Samoa since the last survey in 2000.
Fuimapoao said the survey showed 60 per cent of women surveyed were abused was “scary” and “very critical”. The figure in domestic violence “should come as a wakeup call to all of us”.
“This recent survey has the numbers increased (from 40) to 60 percent and the problem continues to happen so long as the mentality remains that men are ‘pule’ (owners) of the family.”
She recalled that during the 11th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting held in Samoa last year, it was revealed that “60 percent of young women who were surveyed said it was okay for a man to beat his wife”.
“They held that belief and they will grow up with that understanding.
“Even the countrywide survey that came through showed that a lot of men and women have the belief that a man is justified to discipline his wife including beating her in some way or manner for at least one reason.”
According to the C.E.O., there have been awareness campaigns, but if the mentality is still the same way, the problem will continue.
She gave an example of how difficult it is to get it across to the country that domestic violence is wrong.
“All of us know that you actually need to eat less and exercise more to live healthy, so how many of us actually do that? That’s how hard it is to get this across.
“It’s not a matter of government coming along and preaching to people, that is easy but to change the mindset as a father, young man, chief, and a woman. That is the hard part.
“And it starts within families, this is where you are nurtured how to behave, how to live life.
“This is where we teach our children the importance of respecting one another. As our sons get ready to have their families, they should be directed on how they carry out their relationship with their wives.
“You being the head of the household do not mean that you have the right to beat someone else’s daughter or sister. We are supposed to be a Christian nation, and we’re supposed to live by what the Bible teaches.”
She also mentioned the misinterpretation regarding what the Bible says.
“The Bible says that fathers are the head of the family and it was interpreted as ‘owner-pule’ and therefore, this pule can discipline.
“Is that really what the Bible says and then also because it’s been repeated over the years that this is how Samoan families have been operated for the longest time.
“We need to accept the fact that it is not what the Bible says and that it is not the Samoan culture. It’s the total opposite. So that’s the conversation’s we need to have.”
She told Samoa Observer at the time that one of the steps taken was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U.) with the National Council of Churches where they will make it a priority for the church Ministers to remind their members that domestic violence is wrong.
She said another avenue was using the village councils.
“If the villages can penalize anyone for theft, rape, they should also penalize those who abuse their wives,” she said.
“This matter is not only a government problem in terms of enforcement, but it should also be addressed in churches and in the villages.
“We know that our chiefs are highly regarded and this message coming directly from them, I’m sure there will be changes, as these numbers are very scary.”