Two prominent and powerful women in the Anglican Church in Suva, Fiji – Rev Amy Chambers and Rev Sereima Lomaloma pushed for the House of Sarah to be opened and provide services relating to women and children in 2007.
The House of Sarah was finally launched in 2009 by the late Archbishop Jabez Bryce, the same year in which the AAW BGM adopted the Work plan of the House of Sarah when it also received Anglican Mission Board funding.
The House of Sarah provides Christian Pastoral Care Services to victims and witnesses of gender-based violence such as providing a listening ear, a warm heart, a welcoming hand to those women who are facing difficulties in their relationships, self-care and self-development.
In a detailed report, the Alliance’s Pacific facilitator, Tagolyn Kabekabe described the main forces underpinning the work as:
Commitment of the Head of the Church:
- The Archbishop of Polynesia the Most Reverend Dr. Winston Halapua took the first step in his capacity to deal with violence in the homes and church community in 2011.
- He publically launched the initiative to combat violence against women and children throughout the Diocese of Polynesia during the 16 days of activism annually celebrated by FWCC and other NGO’s around the world.
- Domestic violence happens within the households of our congregations and is sometimes supported by patriarchal attitudes and cultural acquiescence. The Church needs to look to its structures and raise voices to address issues of gender based violence. Its role is always to stand alongside those who are vulnerable and the victims of violence.
- He publically launched the initiative to combat violence against women and children and made a public announcement.
Opposition to gender-based violence by the Diocese of Polynesia:
- Violence will not be tolerated and not condoned in the Diocese of Polynesia.
- The Diocese of Polynesia will strengthen its commitment in addressing issues of violence in our community.
- Strengthen its commitment to groups and institutions who are already working to create awareness and advocacy for victims and witnesses of GBV.
- To ensure that the initiative meets it target population, training was also conducted.
Training of Clergy:
- A series of workshops on “Live a Violence Free Life so that others May Live in Peace – A Journey of Self- Reflection and Growth” was conducted by the Rev. Dr. Feleterika Nokise and his team from PTC to all the clergy from the Suva/Ovalau Archdeaconry.
- More than 50 participants attended this compulsory training in 2011.
- This is the first of many training sessions as there is a need to cover West VitiLevu and Vanualevu and Taveuni.
Institutional mechanism to progress the workplan:
- Training of our clergy as facilitated by PaTC.
- Training of our pastoral care givers at the HOS by the staff of FWCC.
- Implementing it in our Anglican primary school curriculum.
- Implementing DV in the Code of Conduct for all clergy.
- Training of our women in the parishes throughout Fiji.
- Implementing a HOS referral committee in 18 of the parishes in Fiji.
As an extension of the work done by the pastoral care givers to victims and children, the church also works with men in the Simeon Ministry which:
- Comprises three dedicated and prominent men within the Anglican church (headed by Father Cama the former Dean of the Cathedral, John Simmons a policeman by profession and Clayment Tari who works with the Social Welfare) who work as male advocates in the fight to Eliminate Violence against Women and Children.
- Has staff trained by the FWCC.
- Preaches the message of EVAW from the pulpit.
- Helps by providing advice/encourage /empower man who abuse and may not know how to break out of the cycle of violence.
The House of Sarah in its effort to provide a well rounded and supported programme works in partnership with the following organisations in Suva, Fiji:
- Pacific Theological College [PTC]
- God’s Pacific People [GPP]
- Pacific Conference of Churches [PCC]
- SPATS and Weavers
- Fiji Police Force (Sexual Offences Unit)
- Ecumenical groups
- Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre [FWCC]
- United Nations Women
The House of Sarah is capably coordinated by Ms Marama Tuisawa, a lawyer by profession, and having talked to her on a few occasions she is very passionate about the job. In fact, she and her supporters are running back to back trainings in domestic violence, which covers all areas of sexual abuse and harassment and gender in villages around Viti Levu Island.