Photos: Andrew Flynn & Karen Abplanalp
Everyone can be the change
The Special Olympics Samoa’s Athlete Leadership Program expanded its agenda on Friday to empower athlete’s and the wider community to stop the silence and stand up in unison against violence against women. Partnering with the British High Commission NZ the Special Olympics Samoa hosted the powerful Stages of Change theatre production at the NUS Gymnasium.
Research shows that people with intellectual disabilities suffer a higher rate of violence than people with no disabilities and in some cases victims may not understand what is happening or have a way to communicate the assault to a trusted person. In other cases a person with a less severe disability may realize they are being assaulted, but not know that it’s illegal and that they have a right to say no. In addition, they are rarely educated about violence issues or provided assertiveness training. Even when a report is attempted, they face barriers when making statements to police because they may not be viewed as credible due to having a disability.
Partnering with the Stages of Change project , SO Samoa used theater as a vehicle for reducing violence against women and increasing women’s participation in civil society and peace-making across Samoa. This performance featured a group of women from Solomon Islands who are traveling the pacific sharing their story through powerful performances.
SO Samoa is hosted this event to educate its athletes, volunteers and staff in identifying violence against women with intellectual disabilities and empowering them with the tools to be able to stop the violence and prevent it happening again in the future. CEO of SO Samoa Tusitina Nu’uvali said “By recognising the magnitude of this problem and facing the reality that people with intellectual disabilities are more likely to be assaulted than those without disabilities we are able to change societal attitudes to view victims with disabilities as having equal value as victims without disabilities, and giving them equal advocacy. We aim to show Samoa that our athletes can be the leaders of their communities, promoting positive values whilst understanding themselves how to seek support if they are a victim of violence.”
Athletes from Loto Taumafai and Senese to participated in the workshop and were inspired by the speech given by British High Commission to NZ Jonathan Sinclair “Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected for who they are. It is your abilities that make you unique not your disabilities, so be proud of who you are.”