Economic Empowerment for Women and Girls in Tonga

Staff of the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children (TNCWC) have completed training to support survivors of violence through a newly developed women’s economic empowerment program.

Participants at the training. Photo Credit: TNCWC

From 16 – 20 April, TNCWC underwent training and mentoring to ensure that their new women’s economic empowerment program integrates strategies to address violence against women (VAW), and to minimise the risks to women’s safety.

The program, supported by Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women), is focused on enabling women and girls, including survivors of violence, to have access to and control over expanded economic opportunities that they can use to make strategic life choices. The program will build the capacity of women to increase their economic empowerment at the micro-level. It is also anticipated that the women’s self-esteem and morale will be boosted with the new or strengthened knowledge and skills.

While TNCWC has been providing support to women who have experienced violence since the year 2000, after a recent organisational review, the Centre identified a need to support survivors of violence to be economically independent. This is particularly challenging because for many of TNCWC’s clients, as has been the experience of many survivors of violence in the Pacific and beyond, they return to relying on their husband or partner:

‘We at TNCWC see the importance of making sure that the women’s husbands, families, church pastors and communities are included in the program from the beginning, so that they support women to participate in the program and that they see the benefits of women’s economic empowerment,’ said Fuiva Kavaliku, Director of TNCWC. ‘We also know that women already do a lot of work in their family as well as in the community and with the church. We want to minimise the workload for women and this means working with the women’s husbands and families to share the workload more evenly and for families to be happy and harmonious.’

During the training, TNCWC identified ways that will strengthen their women’s economic empowerment program:

  • support women survivors of violence,
  • challenge gender inequality, and
  • change men’s attitudes and behaviours towards gender inequality and VAW.

TNCWC is strategically placed to address VAW and women’s economic empowerment simultaneously because of their experience supporting women survivors of violence over the past two decades. This experience and their understanding of how VAW undermines women’s empowerment is critical to being able to increase women’s economic empowerment.

‘TNCWC’s counsellors have a wealth of experience supporting women who have experienced violence,’ explained Tessa Walsh, Pacific Women technical consultant. ‘They understand how this violence impacts on women’s lives and the realities for women when they return to their husband/partner. Being able to draw on this experience to integrate it into a women’s economic empowerment programs is really valuable.’