Fola le ta’ui a le Atua: Rolling Out the Mat of Scripture: Church Responses to Gender-Based Violence Against Women in Samoa: Supporting Church Capacity for Transformative Social Leadership

Research objectives:

  1. To investigate the level of church support for current GBV prevention initiatives and examine the factors that influence church attitudes to violence, as well as church norms and structures which might support violence. To investigate the current understanding, attitudes and actions of four church denominations towards gender-based violence as a pastoral and public issue. In particular, to assess to what extent there may (or may not) be a disconnect between the churches and international, national and local initiatives on GBV prevention, and to examine why this might be the case. This will focus on the three largest denominations in Samoa (EFKS, Catholic, and Methodist), and the smaller Anglican denomination.
  1. To develop contextual and participatory group bible study discussion resources on GBV that are securely grounded in biblical and theological scholarship. To develop and trial new contextual biblical resources in Samoan (and English) for group study, discussion and dialogue on biblical teaching and bible stories which address GBV. The biblical resources will build on insights from international experience, but with adaptation for the local context. These will contribute to primary prevention by addressing the texts that are sometimes used to justify the subordination of women and wives, and thereby excuse subsequent violence against women.
  1. To pilot and assess the impact of these resources with church groups in Samoa. To offer one-day participatory workshops (or an equivalent series on different days) using the resources, and to explore responses and insights, and assess the impact on participant attitudes. These will be guided by the transformative and dialogical pedagogy pioneered by Paulo Freire and will target four church groups, one theological student group and a women’s group.
  1. To consider the practical decisions, actions and policy recommendations that church leaders might take in response to Nadi Accord 2014 in light of the issues raised by the project.

Project team

Project lead
Dr Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko. Mercy is a Lecturer at Piula Theological College and Research Affiliate at the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago.

Principal Investigator
Prof David Tombs. David is Howard Paterson Chair of Theology and Public Issues, at the University of Otago.

Co-Investigator
Dr Melanie Beres. Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work, University of Otago. Melanie is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Gender Studies and Social Work at the University of Otago

Co-Investigator
Dr Caroline Blyth. School of Humanities, University of Auckland. Caroline Blyth is senior lecturer in Biblical Studies and Religious Studies at the School of Humanities, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Research Assistant
Dr Ramona Boodoosingh. Ramona completed her PhD in 2016 at the Centre for Samoan Studies, National University of Samoa (NUS).

Project Adviser 
Dr Tess Patterson. Tess is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago.