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Equality by ‘Ilisapesi Fonua

I consider myself a feminist.
Feminism means various things to various people. For some it means backing certain charities, finding reasons to say Emma Watson is whiny (don’t), showing your support for certain politicians, or, as some “genius” I used to know once said , “listening to Beyonce. Duh!”
I have always been pro-feminism, pro-gender equality, pro-everything that was pro-women. Yet I’d never found myself in situation that showcased just how important one of these issues is, not just to me but to everyone around me. This particular issue is gender equality.
For educational purposes I recently moved abroad and lived with my aunt and uncle and their large family. Generations and generations under one roof.
Thus I was introduced to my first niece. Quite obviously the apple of everyone’s eye, I also immensely enjoyed her little mannerisms and questions and comings and goings.
Aside from the inevitable clashing of personalities that is to be expected when becoming a new part of a household the one thing that stood most prominent for me was something that revolved mostly around the little bundle of mischief (and volume) that was my three year old niece.
Dinner times were often a home cooked event but on occasion there was reason for takeout which often meant pizza. And pizza + large Tongan household = everyone goes to sleep happy. Usually.
On this particular night the children were concentrated more so on their playtime rather than their pizza. Typical of my niece and my oldest nephew both of whom rarely ate as it was (a truly un-Tongan trait of theirs).
Children fight; that much has been well proved and documented since the dawn of time.
I watched as my nephew, who was not easily angered even at seven years old, shoved my niece into a couch. The family zeroed in on him and the reprimanding began.
I then watched as my niece climbed off her mother’s lap, picked up a hard toy and launched it at my nephew’s head. It hit with force and swiftly enough he was in tears.
As my nephew was sat down by one of his aunts, he was then told that he couldn’t treat his cousin like that. Despite having just been injured by her. When asked why he couldn’t treat her that way, he responded with, “Because she’s a baby.”
“Yes, but she’s a baby what?” his aunt asked.
Between sobs, he answered, “A baby girl.”
“That’s right. And girls always get special treatment. Remember that.”
“Girls always get special treatment.”

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Feminism, I feel, is something that was spearheaded because of incidents of injustice that were being felt in various female walks of life. From there we learned the importance of standing up for our basic rights. And now we have arrived at perhaps one of our biggest battles: gender equality.
The misapprehension that certain feminists seem to be labouring under is that, as was previously mentioned, girls/women deserve “special” treatment.
While women have had their fair share of suffering that does not however entitle us to getting better treatment. A fair percentage of the world is already resisting the concept of gender equality; what makes some of us think that the world is ready for “special treatment” toward women only?
Treating young girls as if the world is their oyster is something that I find wonderful and beautiful and is a way of life that should be encouraged. Girls and women should be taught that they have rights; say what they want, wear what they want, live the way they want.
Every possible way that there is to educate women on how to stand up for themselves, be empowered and confident in how they live their lives, is something that I believe in strongly.
It is only when women/girls are being told that their rights, their way of life, and, basically their lives are more important than that of the males that surround them, that we are taking a step BACKWARD.
Feminism is not synonymous with male-hating.
That is a fact, not an opinion.
As I have seen for myself when a young girl is born to a family and she has males close to her own age surrounding her, this can be a good thing in various ways. Having brothers and male cousins can influence a confidence around males that is something to be admired.
The problem is introduced when parents tell their daughter/s that she is more important than her brothers and male cousins. What comes of it is that these boys are being told they are less significant than their sister, will begin to think that their own self-expression comes second to their sister’s or may even begin to associate expression as something only acceptable from girls, so,  strictly a “girl thing”. The repercussions will become clearer with time.
As it turns out cherishing your daughters has its own detriments especially when you don’t do it right. Encouraging your girls to be smart is important. Encouraging your girls to have a voice is important. Encouraging your girls to be kind is important. There is nothing wrong with wanting to give your girls strength and independence. But there is absolutely no need to step on your boys in order to do so.
If girls are raised to believe their voices are of more importance than that of their male counterparts we are only creating and adding to the obstacles our future feminists will inevitably have to face. So while it’s imperative that your daughter knows she has rights, it’s also important that your son doesn’t resent her for having them because you told her that his don’t matter. Both are important equally.
‘Ilisapesi Fonua

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Le’o
The voice of Tonga’s Youth
 Le’o is a safe platform for expression and dialogue on matters that most concern our youth today. We are happy to share with you pieces constructed and submitted to us by our youth regarding the issues they feel are important and are most passionate about.

Dear White Consultant by ‘Amelia Kami

Dear White Consultant,
You are not of the Pacific islands.
You are entranced by our grace,
in awe of our strength
but
so quick to judge our mistakes,
so quick to share your thoughts
on how to fix us,
how to better us
as if your ancestors had not tried before.
Dear White Consultant,
You are not of the Pacific islands.
You are a descendant of the colonizers
using your textbook knowledge
to disguise your true motives,
to fulfill your visions
on how we should act,
how we should talk,
how we should be.
Dear White Consultant,
You are not of the Pacific islands.
You are
the remains of an ideology
that everything you say
is true,
everything you say
is final.
Dear White Consultant,
You are not of the Pacific islands.
You have never scraped a coconut
picked from the tallest tree by your cousin,
you have never scaled a fish
fresh from your grandfathers Saturday catch,
you have never collected rocks
for Sunday ‘umu with extended family,
you have never felt your grandmothers hand across your head
because you were talking too much in church.
Dear White Consultant,
You are not of the Pacific islands
and yet
you are so eager to teach us
about us,
our lives,
our culture,
our home,
our history,
from a textbook;
pages written by the hand of a white man.
Dear White Consultant,
You are not of the Pacific islands.
You are allowed to admire,
you are allowed to experience,
you are allowed to appreciate
but
we will not
allow you to appropriate,
to denigrate,
to dominate.
Dear White Consultant,
Your time has passed.
We will write our own history from here.
Your consultation is required in your own land.

This poem was inspired by several encounters I’ve had with “white consultants”. It’s to refer to people that aren’t a part of a certain culture or ethnicity yet they still feel the need to validate their perspectives on the lifestyle and culture. Yes, we make mistakes but they are our mistakes to make. This poem is a challenge against the epistemic violence that is masked by the excessive aid from overseas countries. Don’t get me wrong, we are grateful and appreciative but our own new history can’t be written if the overseas countries are still playing the lead parts. I just hope for a time where Pacific islanders can learn about themselves in a way that won’t be tainted by the opinions of a white man.

Mia Kami 

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Le’o
The voice of Tonga’s Youth
 Le’o is a safe platform for expression and dialogue on matters that most concern our youth today. We are happy to share with you pieces constructed and submitted to us by our youth regarding the issues they feel are important and are most passionate about.