Rainbow

In 2016, the Samoan Ombudsman, Maiava Iulia Toma, announced a national enquiry into violence against women, and called for churches to be involved in this.[1]

Alongside this, the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development in Samoa has recently presented the findings of the National Family Safety Study 2017. The study indicates a high level of violence against women, and one notable statistic is that the percentage of women experiencing domestic violence since the 2001 National Family Safety Study has increased from 40% to 60% of.[2]

In light of this, the primary question behind our research is

How can the churches offer effective leadership in response to violence against women in Samoa?

There is no question that the churches are exceptionally well placed to provide this moral and social leadership. In a population of nearly 200,000 over 99% identify as Christian, mainly Congregational, Catholic, Methodist and Latter-Day Saints, with a smaller percentage of other denominations, including Anglicans. Furthermore, as in many other Pacific societies, the moral authority and community leadership of churches in society is widely recognised.

Previous studies have highlighted the influence of the bible and the contribution that churches can make. The Samoan Government Second Progress Report 2010 acknowledged the contribution that churches might make in this area. However, many within the churches appear to have a limited engagement with violence prevention policy initiatives.[3] It has also been suggested that some aspects of church structure, behaviour, attitudes, and use of scripture, might contribute to violence against women.

Our research therefore involves two related but distinct strands which will proceed in parallel and inform each other as the project develops (August 2017-October 2018):

  1. An investigation and report on church responses to violence against women in Samoa. This will include an analysis of existing literature, and qualitative research through interviews with key informants.
  2. An action research project ‘Tatala le ta’ui a le Atua’ (Rolling Out the Fine Mat of Scripture) A transformative action research process through the development and trial use of resources for participatory group bible studies on biblical teachings and stories related to violence against women. The project title ‘Rolling Out the Fine Mat of Scripture’ reflects the intention to create a welcoming and inclusive space to promote a deeper biblical conversation on these issues.

The project embraces a collaborative and partnership approach to research in a small team. The lead researcher, Dr Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko, is a Lecturer at Piula Theological College in Samoa, and has a deep experience working on these issues. Dr Ah Siu-Maliko is well-placed to promote positive relationships with local church leaders, theological colleges and local groups.[4]

One of the notable findings which is already emerging is how significant the bible study groups can be in prompting people to discuss violence against women in new ways.

[1] ‘Enquiry into violence in Samoa – Churches must be involved’ (9 September 2016)

https://cathnews.co.nz/2016/09/09/enquiry-violence-in-samoa-churches-involved/

[2] Shivani Sharma and Tuiloma Sina Retzlaff, ‘Domestic Violence costs Samoa $98 million tala a year’, Samoa Planet (29 June 207); http://www.samoaplanet.com/domestic-violence-costs-samoa-98-million-tala-year/

[3] See Ramona Boodoosingh 2015 Violence Against Women in Developing Countries: Policy and Services in Samoa and Fiji. PhD, Centre for Samoan Studies, National University of Samoa, 2016.

[4] See Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko,,Fa’atuatuaga Kerisiano ma Sauaga i totonu o Aiga: Ripoti mo Tagata Lautele Samoa i Niusila. Nofoaga Tutotonu o Mataupu Silisili ma Mataupu Lautele, Iunivesite o Otago; available at https://ourarchive.otago.ac.nz/handle/10523/7051 (Samoan version). ET Christian Faith and Family Violence: A Report for Samoan Communities in New Zealand. Dunedin: Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago, 2016; available at https://ourarchive.otago.ac.nz/handle/10523/7050

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