Creating Safe Spaces for Women and Girls in Tonga


“It takes a lot of guts to walk through our doors and ask for help, so when a woman or a young girl comes to our centre we make it our priority to make sure that she has not regretted her decision to ask for help.”

Director of the Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) Tonga, ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki describes their WCCC initiative as the One Stop Crisis-Team Support service, “the team is made up of our counsellor advocates, a police officer, a registered nurse, a legal advocate and our temporary safe house and care workers.”

Guttenbeil-Likiliki says that one of the huge barriers that victims of violence against women had experienced in accessing services was that they had to go to several different service providers in different locations. With each service provider they would have to go through the ordeal of explaining what had happened to them. This meant that victims would often be re-victimised and exposed to a high-risk of non-confidential methods.

After documenting these experiences, Guttenbeil-Likiliki embarked on a series of discussions with Police Commissioner Grant OFee and they decided to trial the One-Stop-Crisis Support Service Team initiative. OFee delegated a dedicated police officer to be based at the centre. Since those discussions in 2014, the WCCC has now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tonga Police confirming their partnership.

The WCCC now has a full-fledged team in place with a legal advocate who supports clients through the justice system and court processes, a registered nurse who advocates on behalf of the victim in terms of medical assessments, reports and referrals, and the counsellor advocates who are the first point of contact for the victims.

“What was equally important for us in terms of setting up the One-Stop-Crisis-Support Service Team was that our methodologies were based on a Human Rights Framework and that we also developed the initiative with feedback from the Pacific Network Against Violence Against Women. Groups like the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and the Vanuatu Women’s Counselling Centre exemplify best practices in the work of ending violence against women in the Pacific,” says Guttenbeil-Likiliki.

The WCCC is funded by both the Australian and Tongan Governments.

16 Days – 16 Stories of Gender Progress in the Pacific is an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and SPC who are sharing stories of successful gender programs across the region and highlighting the regional policies that guide them. The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declarationcalls for members to enact and implement legislation regarding sexual and gender based violence to protect women from violence and impose appropriate penalties for perpetrators of violence. And it calls for the support and production and use of sex disaggregated data and gender analysis to inform government policies and programs. Related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes. The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progressnoted Tonga’s progress in this area as follows: Developed the implementation plan for the Family Protection Act;established taskforce. More women and children accessing the crisis centre.

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