Samoan leader to address violence against women at the United Nations

Usufonoimanu Peseta Betty Sio (QSO) departs Auckland for New York City tomorrow evening as she prepares to address the United Nations at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Betty is the Chief Executive Officer of ‘The Project’; a Pacific-led social services agency working with Auckland’s Pasifika community at the grassroots level.

Through the invitation of the Pacific Womens Watch, Betty will present a workshop on Pacific models of practice to address violence against women at the United Nations headquarters early next week. She has spent 30 years championing Pacific and Indigenous rights, and dedicated most of her career working as a counsellor and social worker with youth and victims of

Her immediate focus is the elimination of violence against women. Her work and rhetoric to date asserts this must begin in reclaiming Pacific ethnic specific values and beliefs for future generations.

“The solutions already exist in fa’asamoa (Samoan way of life),” she says. “The sacred covenant (feagaiga) between brother and sister, and similarly between men and women is a cultural precedent that can redress the imbalance evident in relationships today.

“I believe we can stop domestic violence by getting back to who we are, and back to our culture. When we know who we are, our role, and what being Samoan means, we can hold ourselves accountable to each other.”

The Commission on the Status of Women session is dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. It is made up of 45 member states and will have national representatives from as far afield as Argentina, Zambia, Egypt and the
United Kingdom.

Today, as CEO of The Project, she manages a team of 20 social workers and staff in four Auckland locations: Otara, Mangere, Grey Lynn and Waitakere. They deliver family support services, counseling and education programmes, effecting change in countless
people’s lives.

This month while in New York, she aims to effect change on an international scale by sharing her life’s experience, promoting the values and principles of fa’asamoa, and using this cultural model to illustrate the treasured place of women.

Background information:

Betty has been an advocate for social change and justice since her youth. A path that was heavily influenced by her parents. During the 1960’s, it was her father the late Reverend Alo Leuatea Iusitini Sio (of Sapunaoa Falealili and Pu’apu’a Savaii) and mother Rosalina (of Solotai Laulii and Satitoa Aleipata) who became the lifeline for many Pacific migrants.

Rev Sio and his family sheltered and fed countless men and women often helping them to set up for their new life in New Zealand. This was Betty’s first example of what it truly meant to serve others. She began work as a counsellor and social worker, in voluntary and paid capacities, in the 1980s and in 1983 set up the Pacific Islands Women’s Project (PIWP) where she served in management roles for over a decade.

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