A speech delivered by Avele College Prefect and Year 13 Arts student Seanoa Junior Leiataua, at a Side Event to the 84th Extraordinary Session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Hosted by Samoa’s National Human Rights Institution housed within the Office of the Ombudsman, the topic of the dialogue was, the Right to Health of Children – in the Samoan context.
Seanoa is the son of Leiataua Misikea and Masaga Leiataua.
The 17-year-old delivered this as the voice of the child amongst panellists that inclduded the Ministey of Foreign Affairs and Trade CEO Peseta Noumea Simi, Vice President of the Committee of the Rights of the Child Justice Renate Winter, former Mrs Vaiee Maupolo Malili Teo Pelema and the Samoa Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma.
Talofa and Greetings to you all.
My name is Seanoa Junior Leiataua, a year 13 student of Avele College. I stand here on behalf of the Ombudsman and as a representative for all students of Samoa, to voice my opinion about the given topic.
The topic is about: Right to Health of Children in the Samoan Context.
First of all, I would like to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for his guidance, his protection and for his steadfast love upon us all. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the Ombudsman for selecting myself to stand on their behalf and voice my concern as a Samoan student to the given topic.
Let me define the term health. Health simply means the state of being free from illness or injury. We can also say that health can refer to a person’s physical or mental wellbeing or in general terms such as spiritual health, economic health and humanity health. My interpretation of humanity health is a focus on human rights and freedom to protect a person’s life.
My Historical Background
I was raised in a typical Samoan family. My parents are my first lecturers who taught me what was right and wrong, what to do and what no to do etc. When I do something wrong my parents correct me and show me the right way. They teach me to show and respect my elders, they always says, usitai ma ola mata’u i le Atua e maua ai le poto. Which simply means the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and understanding.
Discipline is very important in my life and my parents are very strict when it comes to disciplining my brother and I. On the other hand, my grandparents which can also be seen as my teachers, they tend to spoil me by buying what I want and need, regardless of how expensive it is. My parents would not always agree with the way we would receive special treatment from them.
I have grown up with my grandparents looking after me and now have taken on the reverse role of helping to look after them because they have aged which is why I prefer to stay with my grandparents because I have more freedom from them rather than from my parents. Although I have less freedom from my parents but I still depend on them for health and taking care of myself.
I consider myself as a very fortunate individual that has been raised and have not witnessed any type of violence while growing up. My grandparents are retired ordained minister and faletua of the Methodist Church of Samoa and abroad. Which I could definitely say has played a vital role in my upbringing, which is what I will always treasure daily.
I live in a community where people are so friendly, loving and humble. Our community helps instill in myself about the faa Samoa. The faa Samoa is part of my life, the faa Samoa is my culture. My culture or the Samoan culture is based on Christian principles and beliefs.
I have been taught that faaaloalo (give respect to) is very important in the faa Samoa. The faaaloalo can bind people together to live in peace.
If you respect your neighbor then he will give you respect. As a Samoan child the elders teach us from the very day we can walk and talk about the importance of living with faaaloalo. We have to usitai (obey). It is instilled into us during our everyday activities from when we were baby’s right up until we have matured into young men and women.
My culture enforces and disciplines me to become a confident individual that shows respect of others. As a child in our community, I have the right and could play with my friends indoors and outside freely even into the night until 9pm.
When I was sick, I realize now that both my parents and the people of my community had a hand in my treatment. I learned from my cultural upbringing that I can live freely in a peaceful situation.
Culture plays an important part in my life. When I talk about culture, not only a customary manner which people of our community lived but I also prefer the way people live.
The culture improves my health (right) because people live by and follow the rules and regulations which the matai who have the authority established to control and monitor people’s behavior.
My Samoan culture enhances my life to live and stay together with people of our society in harmony. I do believe that my health is secure by the authority of the matai and the supervisor of the elders and people of our society.
The church is another institution that contributes a lot to my health as a child in the context of Samoa. Learning the Bible and trusting in the Lord which gives me more confidence to trust my parents and people of our society.
Let me ask a question. What happen to the health of the young generation in Samoa nowadays? Do children of Samoa have a right of health? Is it secure for a child to stay by herself/himself in their homes? Can our children continue the trust to their parents, the community and people of their society?
I raise these questions to highlight some of the issues which is affecting the health of our children in Samoa today. Last week on the TV news, there were three cases of child abuse. A case between a man and his daughter, a step father and his step daughter and a teacher and a female student in the class.
It was also reported that there has been an increase of violence against women and children within the Pacific.
Who are we to blame? Parents, Teachers, Schools, Villages, Churches, or the Government? In my response everyone is to blame. If people performed their duties and their roles honestly and faithfully then there would be no problem to begin with.
If parents prioritise and take care of their child’s health and safety perfectly, then the child’s health will be secure.
If the children are taught to feel safe within their homes and are free of any form of violence. Then they will grow up and pass on their loving nature and good virtues and characteristics to their children. But if the child is raised in a family that has a mother who is a victim of domestic abuse or is suffering from abuse themselves then that is the only thing they will learn and pass on down to his or her children. It then becomes a vicious cycle.
If the church continues to teach the children that they have no fear in telling the truth and voice out the righteousness as God says, and that they feel safe within the church and will thrive within the community and then the problem of health with the children of Samoa can be reduced.
The matai of the village should also do their part; I appreciate one of the villages from Safata (southern parts of Samoa) who started their campaign about security of women and child’s health.
If the government ensures to enforce the law and stop violence against families, women, and child abuse and also make the community aware of the dangers of violence, and promote healthy living within the family then the children of Samoa will live healthy.
Last but not least, we children of Samoa are the future of our country; we have the right to our health.
We have the right to take care of our health. We have the right to control our health. Some of the times we point our fingers to others, but we also have our part to play for the future of Samoa and a better health.
Stop smoking and accepting drugs in our life. We should concentrates to our studies to enlighten and broaden our future but not fighting in town or create violence in our village.
We are the future of our families, churches, and our nation. Dear children of Samoa, we have the right to secure our health, if you know something is wrong or are experiencing any types of abuse please use your right to voice out your situation.
Do not be afraid to tell speak up. Do not be afraid to voice your right to safety and your right to good health. God needs us to speak the truth and do righteousness.
May God bless us today till the end of this sharing and may his love stays with us forever.
Soifua ma ia manuia.