Having to deal with the traumatized experience of the physical, mental and emotional abuse each day for so long can be very difficult for the nofotane women.
Having to lie down every night for a good sleep can be restless as the mind continues to wonder on how to provide for the family’s next meal as an unemployed nofotane woman. Having to go through depression and anxiety as a result of being belittled by their husbands families simply because they are nofotane women have taken its toll on most of these women.
These are some of the constant reminders of the hard lives most of the nofotane women who are members of the Nofotane Empowerment program have gone through, as they looked back at how things used to be. And it is a blessed feeling to be a part of the difference being made not only in the lives of the nofotane women, but most importantly, their families and the community.
The 9th workshop session of the Sustainable Income Generation and Self-Employment of Nofotane Women at Tufutafoe Savaii, was well attended by nofotane from Falelima, Falealupo and Tufutafoe. In attendance also was the CSSP Programme Manager, Ms. Christina Tauā, who saw for herself the emotions expressed by each women whose lives have been transformed by the program.
From learning how to manage their finances to looking after themselves physically and mentally, the result speaks volume of the difference being made. Even having the courage to stand up and share their stories is a positive achievement of the program.
The Inspirational Speaker, Mrs. Ataga’i Maiava Simone of Tufutafoe brought the participants to tears as she shared on what it means to be a nofotane woman. She was basically the family’s slave, at the peck and call of everyone in the extended family, not just her husband and children. She wakes up to the domestic duties, the plantation and the cooking and goes to bed only after the kitchen was clean. Despite the hard life, Ataga’i endured it all because of her love for her husband. According to Ataga’i, the program had transformed her life. She not only secured a sustainable income for her family, but importantly, self-confidence to actively participate and have a voice in the village women’s committee and church women’s fellowship.
Then we had the 66 year old Salafai Maiava Esau of Tufutafoe who eminates hard work as she proudly showed the partcipants her Bank Account with the Samoa Commercial Bank where she is now saving the profit from selling cocoa. From subsistence farming to commercial farming, Salafai continues to learn the basics in maintaining her small business venture.
“Thank you to the European Union through the CSSP Program, for the financial support that has enabled Samoa Victim Support Group to continued making a difference in the lives of the empowered nofotane women of Samoa.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Being victimized and survived domestic violence is a huge transformation for most participants of the Nofotane Project.
Sharing ideas and successful stories with each other is one of the key factors that highlighted the improvement in the lives of nofotane women who are registered as self-employed women under the SVSG and EU Nofotane Sustainable Income Project currently underway.
Self-esteem workshops are continuing in village communities, and for Session 8, this was held at Vaipu’a, the Itu Salega constituency on the southern side of Savaii. Nofotane women from the neighbouring villages of Fagafau, Samata i Uta, Faia’ai and Fogatuli travelled to Vaipu’a to attend the workshop.
Included in the discussions were market opportunities, product quality improvement, support networks amongst women and financial literacy. Gaining an understanding of these areas should help the nofotane women with the sustainability of their respective income generating activities.
Among the 35 participants were 13 new members who joined the workshop as they were motivated by the positive changes they have observed not only on the nofotane women themselves, but also their families.
While the common challenge faced by the women is the lack of market opportunities for their products, the setting up of the Nofotane Online Market should address this.
In the meantime, the stronger and successful women are being a source of encouragement to each other, as they shared their stories of transformation during the workshop. Ms. Christina Tauā, Programme Manager for the Civil Society Support Program and her team joined us in being inspired by the stories of change as shared by the nofotane:
Take for instance, the 60 year old Malaetele Mulivai of Fogatuli, who was challenged by the program that she can do anything she sets her mind to, and started on commercial cooking, putting the baking skills she learnt from the Nofotane Progrm in 2018 into practice. Today, Malaetele is a proud self-employed nofotane baker, delivering her products to the school canteen as well door to door service around the village.
The 54 year old Oriana Faapito of Faiaai shared on how she lost her sense of self worth and nearly gave up life, when her husband left her and 5 children. In 2018 she joined the Nofotane Program and it helped her rebuild her self-esteem. Despite the difficulties, she took it step by step, and smiling through tears, it was obvious that Oriana had come a long way. But according to Oriana, “success is bitter sweet, as I worked hard selling banana chips, handicrafts and vegetables to feed my children, put them to school and to care for them when they fall sick. I never thought that I could have a Bank Account, but now I have enough from my sales to put aside money as savings.”
“Without the financial support from the European Union through the government of Samoa and the CSSP, SVSG will not be able to support the sustainability of the nofotane women’s income generation activities. As such we say thank you on behalf of the nofotane women under the Program.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The 7th Session of the Self-Esteem Workshops for the nofotane women at Toamua, was marked by the attendance of an aged population of nofotane. In attendance were nofotane women from Ululoloa, Vaitele, Puipaa and Faleula.
From as young as 25 to the eldest at 82 years old, 14 other nofotane women are in the age group 65 – 79.
Despite their ages, the elders experience and knowledge have helped them make better decisions for the betterment of their families. The younger nofotane women were inspired by the elders testimonies, especially in being tempted to make impulsive decisions that might have long term effects on their families.
It has really brought home the aim of the Workshops, to encourage, to boost the morale and to share the positive transformation in the lives of the nofotane women, in order for their socio-economic empowerment to be sustainable.
Sustainability therefore, in this context, is not so much a measure of how much income the nofotane women have earned, but rather, how these women are living life free from the violation of their basic human rights.
The ripple effect was obvious. As the women are becoming bread winners for their families, there is a noticeable change in the way they talk and present themselves. There is confidence behind the emotions while reminiscing on the hard life they have endured. With confidence, a safe space has now been created within the realm of the immediate family of the mother, father and children, to discuss family matters and/or development. The nofotane woman’s opinion is valued by her husband, and that of the husband’s extended family.
For the 73 year old Leaoaniu Lomiga of Toamua-uta, she considered the nofotane women of today as being blessed compared to their days, where there were no such socio-economic programs to support them. “We have come this far because of endurance, for endurance helps us to grow in character and in hope.”
A lesson worth noting from the older nofotane women at this 7th Workshop session.
“It is in this connection that Samoa Victim Support Group continues to be grateful to the European Union for supporting the sustianbility program for the nofotane women, through the Civil Society Support Program.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
In 2019, Samoa Victim Support Group reviewed and updated its Child Protection Policy, demonstrating the Group’s commitment to being a child-safe organisation.
As part of a Programme Agreement with UNICEF, a 3-day training on the Child Protection Policy for all SVSG personnel is to be carried out. However, due to the Measles and the COVID-19, the training has been put on hold, but not anymore.
The increase in the number of abused children in the home, especially during the State of Emergency period for the COVID-19, warrants urgent action; and improving the capacity of all of SVSG personnel on child protection and safeguarding measures is one such action.
From 10th – 12th September 2020, SVSG personnel will be in training. The objectives of the training are to ensure that:
The training is designed for all SVSG personnel, including the Board, the Executive Committee, management, staff and the shelter personnel (carers, teachers, cleaners, drivers, security).
The training will be via virtual connection, facilitated by the UNICEF’s Pacific Child Protection Expert Shelley Casey from Australia, and the local UNICEF counterpart Mr. Aladin Borja.
The official opening of the training program at the Lava Hotel on Thursday, 10th September at 8.30am is coordinated by the founding members of SVSG with the support of its advisors, to acknowledge how far SVSG has come as a child-safe organization.
“Thank you once again UNICEF Pacific for supporting SVSG’s child protection work in Samoa.” SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang
Who would have thought back in 2016 - 2018 that the unemployed nofotane women of the Falealili district at the south eastern coast of Upolu, who attended the economic empowerment program implemented by Samoa Victim Support Group at the time, would one day converse in the business language today.
The nofotane women of Falealili, who attended the 6th Session of the Self-Esteem Workshops for the Nofotane project, talked about how they expanded their income generating activities from one product to two or more, all running at the same time. Little did these women know, this is the product diversification concept in economics, which refers to a business, diversifying to produce a variety of goods or services as a way to minimize risks, in the event of an industry downturn.
But that is the Falealili district for you Samoa, renowed for its patriotic pride, and home of the legendary Manu Samoa title for which our national rugby team is named after. In fact, the popular song ‘Falealili Uma’ is said to express so much pride for a hometown and a people. According to Gagana Samoa Translating Lyrics, “It’s a call to arms for all of Falealili to stand together and press forward with courage and dignity.”
And that was exactly what the nofotane women of Saleilua, Matautu, Vaovai, Satalo, Malaemalu, Salesatele and Salani did: ‘standing together and pressing forward with courage and dignity’ as self-employed nofotane women.
From close to 50 self-employed nofotane women who gathered at Salani for Workshop, not one of these women is producing a single product. All of them are practicing product diversification to improve profitability.
These women are exceeding our expectations at this stage of the Progam, and we are very excited.
Take the 35 year old Seupepe Lolo of Salani Falealili for example. In 2017, Seupepe learnt baking from the commercial cooking component of the livelihood training rolled out by SVSG.
Today, Seupepe is also a proud farmer, who shares with SVSG on how she spaces out her planting season so that harvesting will also be in succession. At the same time, her baking continues to serve the children’s school canteen and other events held in the village.
Then we have Sinuanua Solia of Malaemalu who learnt how to make flower accessories in 2017, but is now producing a variety of beauty accessories to sell, while at the same time, run training sessions she personally financed, to teach other women this crafting skill.
The ripple effect of being empowered is now having a cascading benefit to all village women, besides the nofotane. This are the Falealili women, standing together and pressing forward with courage and dignity for themselves and their families.
“Thank you so much European Union for funding SVSG’s program for the nofotane women through the Civil Society Support Program.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The four sub-villages in Satupa’itea on the south east coast of Savaii namely Pitonu’u, Satufia, Vaegā and Moasula were joined by three other villages of Maota, Vailoa and Vaitoomuli, during the 5th Workshop Session of the Sustainable Nofotane Program.
Despite the distance, the self-employed nofotane women gathered at Vaegā Satupaitea, eager to learn how to improve on their management skills, access to markets, the creativity of their products and fostering support networks with other nofotane women.
And for 2 days, the women left their small businesses to be run by their husbands including the caring for their children, while they committed themselves to learning. This small change alone, is testimony of the transformation in the lives of these women, and that of their families, following the women’s participation in the Nofotane Program over the years. Gender role stereotype had been challenged by the Project through the nofotane women, and we are slowly seeing positive changes.
The Self-Esteem Workshop follows up on previous Gender Equaltiy programs by Samoa Victim Support Group to assess how confident the women have become not only to assert their rights as women, but also to value their labour, and have their voices heard and recognized within their families.
The excitement amongst the women to share their stories of change and the articulate way they expressed their concerns regarding the challenges they are now facing as self-employed women, brought home the fact that these women have really found their voices.
They started to ask questions such as: how to better access markets for their products; how to be eligible for micro financing to expand their businesses; how to be more financial literate and many others.
These inquiries highlighted not only an attitudinal change by the nofotane women towards their previous situations, but most importantly, a mindset change for the betterment of themselves and their families.
The challenge for most of the self-employed women attending this sessiion is the distance between their villages and the hub of Savaii at Salelologa, and the further distance from the town of Apia in Upolu. As such, the women depended on the small shops in their villages or the nearby villages to sell their products. For others like Fiu Gray of Vailoa Palauli, she sets up her own small market in front of her house to sell a variety of her handicrafts.
With the on line market component of the Project, the nofotane women are looking forward to have their products access markets outside of Samoa or nationally, to other areas outside of their villages.
We can only say that things are getting better each day for the self-employed nofotane women as we bear witness to their hard work and endurance.
According to the President of SVSG Siliniu Lina Chang, “with funding support from the European Union in partnership with the Government of Samoa through the Civil Society Support Programme, SVSG continues to put the spotlight on the challenges faced by the self-employed nofotane women, and assist them accordingly with their new business ventures.”
The Good Samaritan behind the Cookies for Charity, Miss Seirosa Lamb has done it again; baking cookies not for herself, but for those in need.
This time, it was for the children survivors of sexual and domestic violence cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facility.
Presenting a cash donation of $3,000 to the President of the Samoa Victim Support Group, Seirosa wrote a message titled:
‘To all the brave heroes at SVSG. With alofas from Seirosa’
In front of the children, Seirosa expressed her gratitude and admiraation for the children for their bravery.
“I can’t imagine what its like to go through what you have gone through, but
I hope that God continues to give you the strength to go through everyday. Because what you are going through is nothing any child should ever have to go through, and I’m so sorry for what has happened. I hope this donation will help in any simple way.”
Accompanying Seirosa was her mother Su’a Hellene Wallwork Lamb on behalf of Seirosa’s father Travis Lamb and the rest family.
What a kind gesture from such a lovely young lady Seirosa.
The children of hope continues to be blessed by the generosity of the community and the gratitude expressed towards the children for being brave.
“Thank you so much Seirosa for honoring God’s commandment of loving your neighbours as thyself. We look forward to seeing you again to help with the young ones reading, whenever you are available. Thank you also to your parents Travis & Su’a Hellene Lamb for supporting you in your charity work. God bless you and your family always.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The 4th session of the Self-esteem Workshop focusing on a woman’s worth, strength and purpose had brought together close to 70 nofotane women from the villages of Sagone, Foailuga, Salailua, Siutu and Taga in Savaii; providing an enabling environment to create support networks and mentorship for the nofotane women. The workshop is the learning component of a 2-year project to support the sustainable income generation & the self employment of nofotane women who have been economically empowered under Samoa Victim Support Group’s previous programs.
The project is fully funded by the the European Union through the Civil Society Support Program.
It is a project that in line with the overarching vision of SVSG and its support services, ‘to ensure that victims of crimes and the most vulnerable are well supported to be safe and in control of restoring their lives through quality services.” It involves being their for the beneficiaries of our services through continuous monitoring and evaluation processes.
The nofotane women SVSG works with were once victims of domestic violence. They tolerated the violence because to get up and leave their husbands, (who were usually the breadwinners in the families), would mean the nofotane women would not be able to financially support themselves and their children, and will become burdens to their own families upon their return home.
They were unemployed, they had very low self-esteem, they views were seldom sought during family and community matters; and most were basically without a voice. To think that Nofotane are regarded as servants; are sometimes referred to as ‘lima ma vae’ which translates to ‘hands and feet’; their place is in the kitchen, and they do not have a voice or paid employment opportunities; makes you cringe
However, the economic empowerment program for unemployed nofotane women survivors of violence from 2016 – 2018 paved the way for a change in attitudes and mindsets at the village level towards the nofotane women, and their lack of parcitipation and recognizition in family and village matters.
We have seen the rise of the nofotane woman entrepreneur; whose earnings are now supporting her family through these difficult times, and whose confidence is evidence by her contribution in family discussions, in putting her children to school and in valuing herself as a mother.
Take for instance the mother of 7 children, Luaipou Talau of Samauga in Upolu, now a nofotane woman of Taga. Prior to joining the Nofotane Program, she used to collect 100 coconuts and sold them for $10.00. It was a hard life as she struggled to provide for her family’s wellbeing, put her children to school, attend to their medication when they are sick, while contributing to the village and church matters. Luaipou learnt commercial cooking during SVSG’s livelihood training in 2017 and she is now supplying the school canteen with a variety of bakery products. In addition, she had recently tried handicraft and is also selling woven hats and bags around the village and nearby ones. Luaipou’s story is one of the many stories of change shared during the workshop at Taga. According to Luaipou, “from working hard to working smart, I am not only enjoying life as a self-employed nofotane woman, but most importantly for me, I am now spending more quality time with my immediate family.”
The measure of Luaipou’s success is therefore the quality time now spent with her husband and children. The peaceful and happy household were what she used to long for, which she is now enjoying thanks to the confidence brought about by being empowered.
According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “SVSG is grateful of the funding support from the European Union through the CSSP, which had assisted us in helping the unemployed nofotane women survivors of violence re-write their stories of struggle and abuse, to successful ones now being told over and over again by their families.”
The child rights movement to ‘Stop the Violence Against Children’ currently underway in Savaii by the Samoa Victim Support Group continues to gather momentum.
The movement is lead by Ms. Leilua Lino, the 2018 Finalist for the International Children’s Peace Prize and the 2019 Winner for the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Award. Twenty more children survivors of violence cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facility joined Ms. Leilua in what has been described by Reverend Leusoalii Laki of the Methodist Church at Vaipua as “the children survivors pleading with the parents to stop abusing their children, while appealing to the children to ‘speak out’ against violence.”
In humility, we witnessed how the village and church leaders have accepted the children survivors and their message of Hope into their communities, with respect. Such mentality influence by the children over their elders is a challenge to our cultural norms, which to SVSG, is a welcoming challenge in the context of child protection.
The children’s singing and testimonies were reciprocated with silent tears and warm embrace, as the effectiveness of the children’s plea to ‘Stop the Violence’ reaches the hearts of the eight village communities in the Salega, Alataua West and the Falealupo constituencies.
And as the children traveled across the villages from the south of Savaii at Sagone to the far east at Tufutafoe, its followers increases by the day, who will in turn continued to advocate for an end to violence, even when the children returns to the Campus.
The child rights movement had therefore gathered momentum in Savaii, which is vital in setting the platform when the movement reaches Upolu in the coming months.
So as the year 2020 of the global pandemic and all its uncertainties closes to an end, we find courage in seeing hope through the eyes of our children, and respect through the acceptance by our parents of their collective responsibility to fight for our families right to live, free from abuse.
But there is more that has been gained from the trip to Savaii. According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “this movement has also enabled us to assess the ability of the children survivors of violence under our care to fit back into the community once they are reintegrated. We are used to long roads to recovery, but seeing the children survivors flourishing as they advocated for an end to violence, is part and partial of the rescue and restore nature of SVSG’s work.”
“Thank you to UNICEF Pacific for supporting SVSG’s child protection work for the children of Samoa.
Last but not the least, thank you to all the people of Savaii for your hospitality towards the children. A special thanks to the ‘Alii & Faipule’, the church leaders and the women’s committee of Sagone for hosting the children in what has been one of the most memorable experience for this ‘home away from home’ trip. We came as invited guests, we stayed as friends, and left as family. To God be the Glory always.”
More than twenty children survivors of violence under the care of Samoa Victim Support Group, have joined the fight to end violence against children, by taking the message of Hope throughout the communities in Savaii this week.
The road trip is a child rights movement, initiated by the children survivors of violence cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facility. It is the children’s way to remedy the wrong committed against them by preaching the message of Hope through songs, skits and dialogues with village communities. The road trip had started in Savaii and will continue to cover the whole of Upolu and Manono-tai in this national movement.
The villagers of Taga, located in the district of Palauli and renowed for the Taga Blowholes in Savaii, were the first to welcome the movement. It saw the coming together of the Taga community, from village to church leaders, parents, youths and children alike, to embrace the message of hope, and to pledge ownership of their collective responsibility for the safety of our children.
Through singing, dancing and sharing significant change stories, the resilience of the children brought healing to the village of Taga themselves.
The stress from the day’s work, the uncertainty with the global pandemic and what not, were all set aside as the elderly joined in the singing, while the mothers put on their dancing shoes. It was a beautiful family night of thanksgiving, at seeing the children survivors who were once victims of violence, stood tall and proclaimed the message of Hope to our people.
We also saw how the children’s awareness program against violence had started to break the rhythm of social norms surrounding violence in all its aspect; that it is not a private matter, but a collective responsibility of a community. Village and church leaders of Taga came forward to register as SVSG Village Representatives; youth groups joined the SVSG Junior Youth Alliance as agents of change, while the empowered nofotane women of Taga joined in the awareness and shared their stories of hope to inspire other unemployed women. The children survivors and residences of the Campus of Hope are therefore helping to build a stronger community to stand up against violence, as it continues to escalate in Samoa.
“It is in this connection that SVSG acknowledges the partnership with UNICEF Pacific which enabled us to mobilize so many children for this movement. Thank you also to the leaders of Taga, for accepting the message of hope as shared by the children. You have all reaffirmed in us the belief that you can take a child out of the village, but you can never take the village out of the child. Our children are our blessings, and they deserve to be treated as such.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Samoa Victim Support Group is only a call away (685) 800-7874. If you have some important information that will save the life of someone close to you or indirectly connected to you please do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call.
That decision could be the best one you could make in this life.
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