Labour’s Mangere MP Su’a William Sio is showing some good leadership reports the Herald:
Open discussions about sex should be encouraged to prevent young women from getting rid of their newborns, an MP said.
Last Thursday a Samoan woman gave birth during a flight from Apia to Auckland and dumped the child in a rubbish bin. The woman was later found inside Auckland International Airport looking pale and bloodstained and was taken to hospital – with the child, who was found alive.
Mangere MP Su’a William Sio said it was not the first time a Samoan woman had tried to get rid of her newborn.
Cultural stigma and the shame of having a child while unmarried were some of the key issues surrounding why young women – both in Samoa and New Zealand – dumped their children, Mr Sio said.
“This is mostly derived firstly by fear – fear that they’ve done something wrong and fear of shame of the [unmarried] mother bringing to the family.” …
Mr Sio acknowledged that because many Pacific parents tended to shy away from talking about sex with their children, it was difficult for young unmarried women who found themselves pregnant.
I think Sio is right that the solution is changing the culture to one where young Samoan women especially don’t feel they can’t tell anyone they are pregnant.
A few years back at one workplace, one of the staff was a Samoan woman – probably aged around 25. One day she didn’t turn up to work. This was unusual as she was the most reliable staffer you could imagine. We were all worried something had happened, and then a bit before midday her boyfriend phoned to say she had given birth that mornng, so will be off work for a couple of days.
Everyone was pretty staggered. Partly because she didn’t look pregnant (and she was not large), but also because we could not work out why she wouldn’t have at least told her boss and arranged maternity leave, let alone give the office daily updates on her pregnancy like most pregnant women do 🙂
But of course that is where cultures can have such differences. It was a good lesson about not assuming everyone reacts the same way. It was somewhat sad though that what can be such a joyful period for many women, was seen as a period of shame or embarrassment.