Reviving of the traditional Samoan Culture of male respect for women and girls, is the main focus of the partnership project by the UNESCO and Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) funded by the Spotlight Initiative. The focus is to eliminate violence against women and girls.
In taking ownership of the project focus, SVSG had taken the global #WithHer Campaign and localize it, giving it the #SamoaWithHer title.
The 12-months project is fronted by the SVSG Juniors, the youth sub-group of SVSG, as part of the UNESCO Spotlight Initiative.
It is an initiative that sees the YOUTH, putting the Spotlight on RESPECT, to eliminate violence against women and girls.
The project builds on the rationale that while the Samoan culture supports male respect for women and girls, our society has been undergoing changes. These changes have created another reality that legitimizes violence as traditional values give-way. The culture of violence and abuse of girls, however, reflects a change built on erosion of traditional value.
Samoan traditions include goth male and female views. This project is an attempt to bring thee values to life as living traditions while empowering survivors of violence to take charge of their lives.
The objectives are to:
The expected outcome would be behavioral and mentality change amongst the youth on aspects of the Samoan culture of respect, that if revived, would assist in eliminating violence against women and girls. It involves mentoring activities for the youths, setting up virtual knowledge platform on social media, promoting international networking.
It is fronted by 250 Youth Social Animators, selected from more than 50 church and village youth groups in Samoa, registered as SVSG Junior members.
It will see the SVSG Juniors, once again, connecting with its international Breaking the Cycle of Violence (BreakIN) partners namely Centre for Health & Social Justice (India), Youth First (Madagascar), Emancipator (Netherlands), and CERUJOVI (Spain); and regionally, with the Alliance for Future Generations (Fiji) and EI8HT Sports (New Zealand).
We here at SVSG are excited of taking this innovative approach, whereby the youth and culture are looked at, to effect behavioral and mentality change to eliminate violence against women and girls.
The love and kindness of the community in New Plymouth New Zealand, wrapped in the donation of assorted goods, have reached the children survivors of violence cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facility.
It has been four months now since Jayne Richardson and Evelien Wallace of New Plymouth, have started corresponding with Samoa Victim Support Group in getting a donation across for the children at the Campus.
But what started out as a donation of clothing and stationery by a group of friends, turned into a community project as the supporting families in New Plymouth, gathered all sorts of goods they can spare from nappies to shower curtains, sporting goods, toys, shoes and many more, for the children in Samoa.
According to Jayne, “we have been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of wonderful friends, families and colleagues, which enabled us to box everything up and transported them from New Plymouth to Auckland for shipment to Samoa.”
A total of 22 boxes of assorted donation arrived in Samoa during the flash flooding before Christmas. These have now been cleared and released to the Campus, much to the excitement of the children beneficiaries of this love and kindness. “I really hope what we managed to get to you is helpful.” Evelien Wallace
A helpful donation indeed, given the donation will cater for the increased number of abused children admitted to the Campus, as families are feeling the social and economic impact of COVID-19 due to job loss.
“Thank you so much Jayne Richardson, Evelien Wallace and the supporting community in New Plymouth, for sharing the Christmas spirit with the children of hope through this donation. A special acknowledgement of the good will of the Bark Products Taranaki, that organizes the shipping and paper work for this consignment.”
“We wish you and your families love and prosperity as we journey on to 2021, in God’s grace.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
With this scripture, we wrap up a year of uncertainty, of challenges and of tragedy, in the spirit of thanksgiving.
Because besides the bright lights of Apia, the well swept mud from the recent floods, and the hope in the eyes of the children we have rescued from being abused, the love of God through His masterplan save you and I, should make Christmas, always and forever be a season of joy and thanksgiving.
Fifteen years now since serving the people of Samoa as a support service organization, Samoa Victim Support Group have never been challenged like we have been this year. This is due to the fact that while our people were recovering from the Measles epidemic which killed hundreds of our dear children, the dark clouds of the COVID forced the most vulnerable to commit crimes of survival, crimes of hunger and crimes of fear.
Today, we wish a Merry Christmas to all those whose belief, confidence, and love for the people of Samoa, have supported SVSG’s work in 2020 and beyond. SVSG’s donor partners, the government of Samoa, the European Union (CSSP), the Spotlight Initiative (UNDP), UNICEF, UNESCO, ILO, FAO, the Australian High Commission, the New Zealand High Commission, the US Embassy Office Apia, the Japanese Embassy Office Apia, the Germany Embassy, and the Canada High Commission, both of New Zealand.
From our lovely children at the Campus of Hope, we say thank you and merry Christmas to the churches, villages, schools, youth groups and families that have supported their daily welfare and nurtured their spiritual growth throughout the year.
“And from the Board, Executive Committee, Management and staff of SVSG, let us all find time to enjoy the peaceful spirit, the hope wrapped in the gladness, and the love of God at the heart of the Christmas season. God knows we deserve it. Stay blessed and keep safe Samoa.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
As the low income earning families in Samoa struggled with the economic impact of the COVID pandemic, the flooding caused by heavy rain across the country over the week makes matters even worst.
This was the assessment by the Samoa Victim Support Group when its members visited some of these families around the outskirt of Apia, and the rural Upolu, over the last couple of days.
SVSG’s toll free Help Line number 800-7874 have been busy, with most of the families calling in for clothes, food and even clean water. These were the same families that the Group have assisted as part of its COVID relief operation.
The situation is even more acute because of school closures for the Christmas holidays, meaning children are home; the houses were covered with mud from the flooding. As such, dry and clean clothes, linen were amongst the priority needs, so as food and clean water.
SVSG managed to put together relief packages including food, water and clothing and distributed to more than 40 families immediately after the flooding; covering 9 villages at the outskirt of Apia, and 7 villages further out in the rural Upolu.
Majority of the family members are children hence bags of cloths and linen benefited close to 200 children, including children with disabilities.
Of great concern to SVSG is the risk of mental health affecting the older members of these families, as parents struggled with poverty, social, economic and physical environment they now live in, during this Christmas period.
The relief packages being distributed is SVSG’s way of reaching out, and supporting the mental and wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of our community.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Change therefore acknowledges with gratitude and appreciation the funding support from the High Commission of Canada in New Zealand through the Canada Fund for Local Initiative (CFLI), which is now making Christmas a bit more brighter for the vulnerable families from the flooding over the last week.
The effectiveness of grassroots advocacy campaign by SVSG village representatives over the years, aimed at changing attitides at the village level towards the gender equality issues that many nofotane women face, now have cascading benefits to many more village women of the Faleata constituency.
This was evident by the attendance at the 15th workshop session of self-esteem workshops for nofotane women held at Vaiusu for women from Vailoa, Vaiusu, Vaitele tai and Vaitele uta.
From the total of 82 nofotane women who attended the workshop, 35% were nofotane who became self-employed since the first Nofotane Program was completed in 2018. The other 65% were nofotane women who attended the first Nofotane Program, but didn’t get to become earners until the period 2019 to date. This is a huge success rate as more and more women continued to use the livelihood skills being trained on to earn income for themselves and their families.
Seeing the husbands joining their wives at the training is the buy in that the project seeks to achieve, as this is very important to support the sustainability of the income generation of women.
The improvement in the quality of the production, and the innovative creations of handicrafts made from coconut shells, is raising the bar on the level of production demanded by the overseas buyers secured by Samoa Victim Support Group for these women.
According to Ligi Toomata, the SVSG Village Representative for Vaiusu, “while there is now an acceptance that women can, and do play a vital role in community affairs, particularly in contributing to the achievement of community development and progress, the majority of women remained the unsung heroes. But seeing so many men attending the training with their wives, is a good sign of better things ahead, especially within families.”
“The funding support from the European Union through the Civil Society Support Program is therefore acknowledged with gratitude and appreciation for those who are always left behind – women and children.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Character and ability are the characteristics that best described the self-employed nofotane women who attended the 14th session of self-esteem workshops held at Leauvaa over the week.
Travelling from the neigbouring villages of Levi Salemoa, Tufulele and Faleasiu to the west; Tuanai and Faleula to the east, the positive changes in the lives of these women and the ripple effect it has brought to their families, attributed to their strong characters and hard work.
From the 50 participating women, 90% of them have young children who attended the St. Joan of Arc Primary School at Leauvaa. This means that they have to wake up extra early during the training days to prepare the children for school, cooked the meals for their elderly and family members remaining at home, dropped off the children to school before attending the training.
No wonder why the Proverbs 31 describes a virtuous woman as the one who leads her home with integrity, discipline, and more. All the virtues a woman practices are therefore aimed at making the life of her husband better, teaching her children and serving God. Nothing in this Proverb is for her, but rather, it is all about what she blesses her family with, through her character and ability.
Which makes the attendance, the participation, and the enthusiastic learning by the nofotane women at Leauvaa, all the more rewarding for the Program.
When the training breaks for lunch, the women rushed next door to the school compound to feed their children. Half an hour later, they were back at the training venue, and only then did we see them having their meals. Now that is the strength of women of character and ability.
The sustainable income generation and self-employment of nofotane women is therefore much more than economic empowerment. It is inclusive of social empowerment. It looks at strengthening women’s social relations and their position in social structures, giving them more of a purpose outside of the home. It is when their contributions to community are recognized and valued.
The progress made by the nofotane women of Leauvaa, Levi Saleimoa, Tufulele, Faleasiu, Tuanai and Faleata, towards economic and social empowerment forms the qualitative measure of the overall Program. Change is a work in progress.
“Thank you to the funding support from the European Union through the Civil Society Support Program, which is enabling SVSG to witness change as a work in progress, in the lives of the women under the Nofotane Program.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The commitment from village leaders registered as SVSG Village Representatives to the research study to develop indigineous approaches to prevent violence against women, highlighted a buy in from the selected villages of the study.
Visiting the SVSG office were the selected village representatatives from Falefa, namely Alaiasa Tavita and Seletuta Taunuu, together with their mentor, Paupusi Chricton, to discuss with SVSG matters of concern involving violence in their community. This is part and partial of the village representatives roles in villages, being the eyes and ears of SVSG in ensuring that families are safe from violence.
Here are village leaders who are diligent in their roles as agents of change, thus taking the initiative to seek help before any violent situation escalates.
SVSG President was overwhelmed with the support from the SVSG village representatives of Falefa to eliminate violence from within our communities and families. This is especially during this time of the year as the nation and the world are implemeting activities throughout the 16 Days of Activism, from 25 November to 10 December, to end violence against women and children.
Falefa is one of the 10 villages included in the EVE Project; a research study currently conducted by SVSG in partnership with local villages, funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and based at University College London (UCL) in the UK. The EVE Project, referred to locally as E Le Sauā Le Alofa (Love Shouldn’t Hurt) is a 4 year project that will develop a new approach to researching violence against women that is uniquely Samoan.
They came as missionaries from Missouri; and in turn, became part of the growing family at Samoa Victim Support Group.
As part of the team of committed volunteers at the Campus of Hope, Jim & Mindy Wiese are responsible for the spiritual development of the children through their weekly Christian Living sessions. It has been an arrangement that had contributed to the healing and recovering processes each child at the Campus goes through.
For this Christmas, Jim & Mindy Wiese have put on the traditional Santa and Mrs. Claus costumes, to treat the children of hope to a day of laughter and thanksgiving.
From the different shapes and colored balloons, to the reading materials, to stationerys, toys and sweets, the children had a jolly good time with Santa and Mrs Claus.
“It is always a blessed feeling to witness God’s love for us through the Good Samaritans that enters the Campus of Hope. The beautiful Christmas gesture by our missionaries turned Santa & Mrs Claus, is humbling, and we are very greatful.” Siliniu Lina Chang
The children of hope reciprocated to the kind gesture by entertaining Santa & Mrs Clause, and brought a fitting end to a day of fun.
“Thank you Jim & Mindy Wiese for going the extra mile to show the children of hope that you care. We appreciate you and we pray good health so that you’ll continue with your missionary in Samoa.” Siliniu Lina Chang
The conversation Samoa Victim Support Group have had with the nofotane women survivors of violence back in 2015, lead to an understanding of the challenges, the fears, and the doubts that these women were facing.
Getting to the bottom of the problem wasn’t easy, as it required SVSG working a few levels below the obvious insecurities to understand what scared these women. And the answer lies in the women’s inability to support themselves and their families, financially.
Fast forward this situation to the here and now, we have observed from the 13thgathering of the self-employed women under SVSG’s Nofotane Program, the creativity and successes of confident women.
At Savaia, close to 30 women from Faleaseela, Savaia, Tafagamanu and Matautu Lefaga shared on ways which have helped them build their self-confidence, following the SHINE Self-Esteem Program with SVSG in 2016.
From a small act of respect from their husbands, to a recognition of their voices in family discussions, the acknowledgement of their hard work with a compliment from their in-laws, or the requests to teach other women the livelihood skills they have mastered. All of these small changes contributed towards building these women’s confidence in themselves, and influences their new behaviors, which ultimately, breeds creativity and more success as self-employed nofotane women.
For the nofotane women of Tafagamanu, they relied mostly on land for their subsistence living. Coconut trees are in abundance. And this was where the nofotane women of Tafagamanu’s creativity was most obvious. From earrings to hair accessories to church decorations and many other products, there was no stoping what these women can create out of coconut shells.
Those from Faleaseela, Savaia and Matautu Lefaga have the best of both the land and the sea, and as such, their products are not only creative, but so diversified that attracted high demand from both the local and overseas markets.
For these diligent women, the impact of the Nofotane Project in their lives goes beyond the economic and social stability, but more personal in the confidence and the belief they have in their abilities.
“Thank you to the funding support from the European Union, which had enabled SVSG to reassure the nofotane women of the Lefega & Faleaseela constitutuency and all women under its self-sustainabilty program, that they are change makers, simply because they have learnt to believe in themselves.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
As the country steps up its protection measures for the COVID-19 following the recent updates on the national front, the preparation work by the nofotane seamstress who have been sewing cloth face masks have come in handy.
Back in July this year fifteen nofotane seamstress under SVSG’s empowerment program were the recipients of sustainable income from sewing masks for COVID-19 protection, courtesy of the continued partnership between Samoa Victim Support Group and the EU UN Spotlight Initiative of the UNDP Program.
While the specific focus of the initiative was the sewing of cotton face masks utilizing the skills of nofotane seamstress, it had further alleviated domestic violence and economic constraints for these nofotnae seamstresses amidst the COVID-19 crisis, as families are feeling the heat of unemployment.
So if you are looking for face masks for your families, your workers or your congregation, we have colourful cloth face masks available at the SVSG main office in Apia, at affordable prices.
The face masks are sewn from 100% cotton materials available in local stores. To date, hundreds have bought the colourful masks for protection against the COVID-19 pandemic while at the same time, supporting the sustainable income for the nofotane women behind this production.
“Thank you Ms. Louisa Apelu, the UNDP Spotlight Initiative Programme Coordiantor and the team, for the collaborative approach in addressing the social and economic impact of COVID-19, through the continuous partnership with SVSG.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President