In recent years, Tonga has taken action to bridge the gap in gender equality by improving women’s livelihoods and attempting to stop domestic violence against them, while also improving their economic power. They believe that in order to eliminate poverty in their country, women’s empowerment in Tonga needs to improve.
Tonga’s government is determined to promote gender equality. On December 9, the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team and the Ministry of Justice helped create a new Access to Justice Project for Tongan residents. The plan’s aim is to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence and offer them the services that they need.
The plan projects to open a community center in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, in early 2018. The center will provide assistance that will increase survivors’ abilities to apply for protective services under the Family Protection Act. It will also include free legal assistance. For women who are not in Nuku’alofa, the center will provide assistance over the phone.
An earlier development created in 2016 to improve women’s empowerment in Tonga is the Talitha Project. With assistance from Australian Aid and U.N. Women, the project organized a drop-in center as a safe place for women to come and get support and discuss any difficulties they may be having. This center provides counseling and empowerment courses to help women become independent members of society.
The Talitha Project also launched a campaign this year, supported by the Ministry of Justice, to end child marriage in Tonga. The campaign is called “Let Girls Be Girls!” and plans to increase awareness of child marriage in Tonga, as well as repeal sections of the Births, Deaths and Marriage Registration Act of 1926. The current legal age to marry in Tonga is as young as 15 years of age if the child has the consent of a parent.
The campaign is hoping to change the age minimum for marriage to 18. The founder of the Talitha Project, Vanessa Heleta, says this is an essential step to ensure that women realize their full potential.
More recently, Heleta has used the Talitha Project to partner with the Bank of the South Pacific and a telecommunications company to encourage over 50 women to empower themselves financially. The project ensures that these young women are provided guidance on how to become financially independent entrepreneurs.
The project’s main purpose is to increase women’s empowerment in Tonga. With the help of the bank, these young women in Tonga will get assistance in opening a bank account. The project also works with the women to use any talents they may have to create or make goods they can sell, such as handicrafts or fabric printing. Then, when cruise ships come in, the women go to these locations and set up a tent where they can sell their products.
These young women having a functioning bank account and earning an income from the work they have done themselves empowers them and gives them leadership skills. The purpose of all of these projects is to improve women’s empowerment in Tonga and give them the confidence and support they need in order to continue striving as individuals.
Although a persistent effort is needed to further increase women’s empowerment in Tonga, there are numerous projects and plans in place to ensure that this improvement continues. These projects are only some of the influential ones taking place in Tonga and empowering women daily.
– McCall Robison