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Way forward as equals

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


As the President and Founder of Talitha Project, I present, on behalf of the entire organization, our full support of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW as it is more popularly known. Our vision and goals of empowering young women are well aligned with the clauses and terms outlined by the convention.

We have been working with young women and girls for seven years; have had over 2,000 girls attend our camps, trainings and seminars. Throughout that time, we’ve dealt with 155 young mothers (ages 13-25 years) of who have faced some very heartbreaking struggles. These issues include rejection from family due to teenage pregnancy, refusal of reentry into school due to prior pregnancy, domestic violence, rape, incest cases and a prevalent low self-esteem among others.

The convention was formed under the UN principle of "faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women". With that principle in mind, we fail to see how the convention is of any harm whatsoever to our Tongan way of life, or our progression towards being a better society. The way forward for us as a nation, is as equals. At Talitha Project, we strive for the equality of men and women as we believe that in God’s eyes we are all the same, in that we are His children. CEDAW’s purpose and establishment is reinforcement of that belief, and we will stand by it in full support.

I hope and pray for the Prime Minister and his cabinet Ministers will not waver but to stand strong in their decision to ratify the convention. We are however, disappointed that a few people have misinterpreted the convention and caused a great misunderstanding amongst the Tongan people when in fact the government has repeatedly addressed that they have made reservations on Articles 2, 10, 12, 14 and 16.

I cannot, for my life, understand why people are making an uproar over the convention.

Consider that:

  • every Friday  after school we anticipate the fighting of boys from rival high schools;
  • every year women and children in Tonga die from domestic violence;
  • Tonga still retains corporal punishment of children as a legal sanction for a crime;
  • and the list goes on.

The question is why are we not concerned over on these terrible things and taking action to make our society a safer place for women and children?

It seems to me that the people are scared of information because the truth demands a response – this means that you have to give up ignorance and apply wisdom! The greatest enemy of a person in life is not the devil but ignorance – lack of knowledge!

 Once again, CEDAW does not in any way, shape or promote or insist on same sex marriage and abortion. This is an atrocious misreading based on unwarranted assumptions. To help clarify the true intentions of CEDAW, feel free to pick up a copy of the Convention from our office in the 2nd floor of Uata Building. 

Yours sincerely,
Vanessa Heleta

Talitha Project for Young Women's Leadership. Tonga.


Ko 'etau 'uhingaa, ke fa'u 'ehe UN 'a e lao 'o Tonga?. Kae fefe 'etau Falealea mo e Pule'anga na'atau fili ke nau fa'u pe 'etau lao? Ko e ngaahi me'a ko'eni 'oku lisi 'i 'olunga, kuo 'osi 'i ai pe 'e tau lao kiai. Koeha 'oku 'ikai ke tau fie fai ai kiai? Ka tau toe tangi pe kitautolu ki he UN ke tau talite mo fakamo'oni kiai, pea toe fa'u pe 'a e lao tatau, pea to'o ai 'etau tau'ataina kakato ki hotau fonua na'e foaki 'ehe tu'i 'uluaki. Kapau 'oku fuhu fanau ako he uike kotoa, telefoni 'o tala kihe kau polisi he 'oku tapu 'i he lao 'a Tonga. Kapau 'oku 'abuse' 'a e fanau mo e ngaahi uaifi 'i 'api, telefoni ki he kau polisi he kuo 'osi fa'u 'a e lao 'a Tonga ke tapu hono fai 'a e me'a koia. Ko e 'corporal punishment' 'o e fanau, 'oku 'ikai 'uhinga ia ke fai ki he fanau kotape 'oku puke 'e he kau polisi. 'Oku 'uhinga ia ki he fanau kuo to kitu'a 'enau faihia, pea kuo 'osi 'a e feinga kotoape 'a e 'Justice Department' ke fakafoki 'a e ki'i tamasi'i koia ke fai 'a e ngaahi me'a 'oku lelei ke malu'i 'a e 'community', pea ko e taha pe 'eni 'o e ngaahi tautea kiai. 'Oku 'ikai ke fai noa'ia, kuopau ke 'i ai 'a e fakamaau'anga ke fakapapau'i 'oku 'ikai maumau'i 'a e lao 'i he taimi 'oku fakahoko ai 'a e tautea ko'eni. 'I Tonga, pea mo e ngaahi fonua lahi 'i mamani 'oku nau kei ngaue 'aki pe 'a e tautea mate (capital punishment). Ko e 'uhinga, ko e hia fakalilifu na'e fai, pea 'oku 'ikai ha'atau toe fili, ka ko e tautea mate pe. Koeha hono 'uhinga ka tukukehe'i ai 'etau fanau 'i he'enau fai 'a e ngaahi hia fakalilifu, ta'e fai ha me'a kiai ke malu'i 'a e kakai 'community' ? Mahalo pe 'oku 'ikai 'ilo 'ehe kautaha ko'eni, ko e me'a ko'eni 'oku nau tangi ki ai, 'a ia 'oku lisi 'i 'olunga, kuo 'osi 'cover' pe ia 'i he lao 'o Tonga, pea kapau te tau fakahoko (will make our society a safer place for women and children. Without signing the CEDAW).........SAIA

While majority of abuses are committed by men, why concentrate your training camps on women only? As far as I know any curriculum produced by any organization under the U.N in regard to gender equality has no moral boundary. Gay marriage and abortion are allowed as part of women's right. It would be good to conduct a training for men on "How to be tender loving care to women?"

While majority of abuses are committed by men, why concentrate your training camps only on women? I'm pretty suspicious when dealing with victims and not the perpetrators. Men are the cause and women are the effect. Isn't it true that in those kinds of camps are the school where feministic ideas about women are being taught? Any curriculum produced by any organization under the U.N in regard to gender equality has no moral boundary. Gay marriage and abortion are allowed as part of women's rights. What about conducting a training camp for men on "How to be tender loving care to women?" or "How to be manly man by loving as Jesus loves?"

CEDAW promotes same sex marriage as well as abortion because it does not stipulate that it doesn't. Anyone who adovcates that is doesn't needs to consider what it does not promote. CEDAW does not promote the family unit, religion or culture. It promotes the rights of individuals, USING women's rights to promote their agenda. Suggest that if well meaning organisations like Talitha use grants they have recrived from Global Women and UN Women Pacifc to promote 'nofo 'a kainga' we would see a marked reduction in violence full stop. Perhaps research and statisics into husband and or partner bashing might give clues as to how we solve the problem of violence in general. Violence is a 'learnt' behaviour, God did not create Mankind to be violent. Behaviour is nutured in the first 6 years of a humans life. Who does this nuturing ???? Men or Women?... Who nutures children.??? It is all very well to set up an NGO get grants to cover operational costs write reports, provide training, travel etc, but perhaps the most effective way to quell the trend is to look at Women's behaviour and their roles as Nutureres and where this has gone astray.