The role women and community leaders and traditional village systems should be acknowledged and considered in the discussion on peace and security for women in the Pacific region including Samoa.
This was a point highlighted by the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mataafa in the Women Peace and Security Agenda Summit held in Apia last week.
In doing so Fiame said would align with the call by the leaders of the Pacific Island Forum to ensure that traditional and cultural roles of the Pacific Island communities are acknowledged and considered as an underpinning imperative of all security initiatives under the regional security plan.
Fiame in her presentation at the Summit argued that there is a need to look beyond the traditional security architecture that focuses on Police or the usual law enforcement and the three branches of government in addressing the Women Peace and Security Agenda.
At the national government level the Women Peace and Security Agenda is addressed through a number of key policy documents which include the Cedaw Convention, Samoa Policy for Gender Equality of 2016 to 2020 and the National Security Policy.
Furthermore, the Women Peace and Security Agenda is “ main streamed across sectorial implementation plans through protection of women and girls with particular regard to gender based violence which has resulted in amended legislations and the application of human rights to enhance access to services including legal aid.”
Fiame said that the role of women in communities and traditional village systems should be acknowledged in the promotion of the agenda.
“ In the village and community setting the role of women play in maintaining peace and stability within family and communities need to be acknowledged and reported in terms of the expanded concept of security to cover climate change, natural disaster, gender based violence and NCDs. These are all areas women are more vulnerable to. These are areas where women have and can play a critical role to address some of the key security threats,” Fiame explained.
She added the discussion on the Women Peace and Security Agenda has highlighted the increasing role of women in the three branches of government ( the executive, judiciary and parliament)and the police. But if there is to be a meaningful representation and participation of women at all levels of peace and security governance, there is a need to look beyond than having more women in the Police services or other sectors Fiame said.
“ It’s about acknowledging the role of women in communities, women’s government representatives in the village and the youth That makes significant contribution to these aspects of regional or national security agenda.”
In the cultural context of Samoa Fiame said the role of women in peace and security are well defined as reflected in the proverbial sayings about women such as: “ O le tama’ita’i ole malu o le aiga” ( Women are protectors of families); O le tama’ita’i ole auli male pae ( Women iron out differences and smooth the stone pathway) and “Ua pae i iulasi le tausala” ( Women secure connections, consolidate family genealogies). “These attributes have always been part of our society and heritage long before the Women, Peace and Security Agenda was formalised.”
Village communities Fiame said could play important security roles like in border security and respond to climate change and natural disasters.
“ For Samoa 70 percent of our population live across the coastal areas, the one Police patrol boat cannot ensure protection of the whole of Samoa coastal land that is open and prone to access for any transnational crime. The first line of defence are the village communities.
“ With a small Police Force we rely on the same village system, church leaders, non- governmental organisations and stakeholders to play a key role to respond to the key security threats such as gender-based violence, climate change and natural disasters.
“We are convinced that women participation in all aspects of peace and security process contribute to longer and more resilient peace in the country.”
Fiame also calls for health issues to be included in the discussion of the women peace and security considering the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases especially chlamida among the female population in the Pacific.
The Summit was co hosted by Samoa and New Zealand.