8 Mar 2017

Tonga's attitude to women's rights 'need to change'

12:05 pm on 8 March 2017

A women's rights advocate in Tonga says it's likely to take a generation to change attitudes towards women's rights, and serious work needs to be focussed towards children.

Tongan woman with church behind

Photo: RNZ / Billie Pryde

The head of the Women and Children's Crisis Centre, Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, said significant progress had been made to improve the situation for women in the past few years.

However, there had been setbacks, such as Tonga's recent failure to ratify a UN anti-discrimination convention, that contributes to massive gender disparity.

Ms Guttenbeil-Likiliki said significant work needed to be done to change cultural attitudes and peoples' thinking, and that involved starting young.

"We need to start in the classrooms where we can have some kind of influence within the education curriculum that promotes gender equality. If you're not experiencing it at home at least they're learning about it in the classrooms. Also healthy and respectful relationships, we can start influencing and changing attitudes and behaviour towards women and men."

She said her organisation was helping the government develop a national women's policy to create official targets for gender equality in Tonga.

Today is International Women's Day, with this year's campaign focussing on forging a better working world, which is a more gender inclusive world.

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