With the increase in the number of sexual violence against young girls reported to Samoa Victim Support Group during the month of July 2020 compared to the same time in 2019, a refreshing change has been noted.
The mothers of the young girl survivors of sexual violence are taking on the suffering together with their daughters, as they are starting to break the spell on the silence tolerated in the past, and reported the abuse that is happening within their families.
It has been a breath of fresh air; noted as a progress towards raising our voices against the danger of fear; of pride and of silence.
This is because as a support service organization, SVSG knew exactly how silence is suffocating. This is especially given the history of SVSG and how it was born out of the need to be there for the incest rape survivors, who were most often, abandoned by their mothers to take on their husband’s side.
The mothers accounted for 80% of the sexual violation cases reported to SVSG during July 2020, and for this, we here at SVSG remain hopeful. We know it is not easy, but the mothers chose to feel the depression and the anxiety together with the daughters by speaking out.
The anguish and the pain are what we can clearly see on their faces, as they sought help with SVSG. But these are the norms surrounding violence that we are trying to break, the attitudes and mindsets that it is a private matter.
Today, SVSG acknowledges the courage of the mothers to be the responsible and loving mothers to their daughters; fighting the good fight, despite the humiliation, the accusation and the stigmatization from all around.
“Continue to stay strong dear mothers, and thank you for your role in breaking the cycle of violence in the homes.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Over the last two years, Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) took up the economic empowerment of women as an intervention to help turn the tide on the increased incidences of violence against women and girls in Samoa.
It has been a challenging process that involved unpacking myths around cultural mindsets, attitudes and beliefs towards nofotane women, so as to encourage positive and sustained behavioral changes.
Today, SVSG bears witness to the significant changes in the lives of the nofotane women under its economic empowerment program. This is through the positive progress made in changing mindsets and attitudes at the village level, to the specific gender equality issues that many nofotane women used to face, such as low self-esteem and unemployment.
As the Sustainable Income Generation Project for the self-employed nofotane women reached Luatuanuu during the week, close to 50 women from the villages of Letogo, Laulii, Leusoalii, Luatuanuu and Eva have eagerly gathered to share their success stories, while anticipating to learn more ways to improve their small business ventures.
Yes. From the usual shy and stress looking mothers, we’ve seen confident and happy women with a purpose; to provide for their families financially, while supporting their husbands with the daily household decisions. The mentality change had started with these nofotane women; that they are equally important as men and that their contribution within the family is valued.
There were nofotane women as old as 72 years of age as per Loto Faatafa Faalelei of Letogo, with the youngest being a 19 year old young mother of Luatuanuu.
One of the star earners was Sinatala Leota, a 49 year old nofotane woman of Eva, who had left her maiden family at Salani Falealili, to live with her husband and 9 children. Sinatala shared on how she walked from Mondays to Fridays covering 3 villages to sell the different products from her baking, a skill she learnt from the Nofotane Program in 2017. Sinatala earns the family $100 a day from her sales. What stood out from Sinatala’s journey is not so much the income she is now earning, but the feeling of being valued by her family. According to Sinatala, “my bakery business is something that my whole family is now involved in with so much joy. As a family, we discussed our earnings, our expenses and even money set aside for our Savings Account. It is a perfect diversion from violence, not only for my children, but also for my husband and I.”
The Self-Esteem Workshop also encouraged the women to form network groups to support each other in their respective businesses. A group of nofotane earners from Laulii is one of the network groups formed two years ago, but is continuing to date, with success.
And in ensuring that the women’s income generation activities are sustainable, we had representatives from one the project partners, the Bank of the South Pacific presenting on the benefits of savings and opening a Bank Account. Together with the distribution of a 4-series brochures from the Central Bank of Samoa on Spending, Borwwoing, Saving and Managing Money, the nofotane women have improved financial literacy necessary to support their businesses into the future.
Siliniu Lina Chang, the President of SVSG therefore acknowledges the funding assistance for this project provided by the European Union (EU) through the Civil Society Support Program (CSSP). “With your financial assistance, we are adequately supported to sustain the income generating activities of the self-employed nofotane women, and in turn, help in turing the tide on violence against women and girls in Samoa.”
What legacy will I leave my children?
This was the question that sums up the progress of the nofotane women entrepreneurs of Falevao, Falefa, Faleapuna, Lufilufi, Lona and Uafato, during the Self Esteem Workshop at Anoamaa this week. The workshop is part of a 2 year Sustainable Income Generation Project for the nofotane women by the Samoa Victim Support Group with financial assistance from the European Union.
The twenty five (25) nofotane women who attended the workshop took the word ‘sustainability’ literally to the next level. Testimonies and small businesses being set up speak volume of the women’s perseverance and hard work. From being unemployed nofotane women survivors of violence to being self employed nofotane women breadwinners, is a milestone achievement on continuing work to address gender equality in Samoa.
Most obvious is the women’s efforts to sustain a better future for their children by teaching them the livelihood skills, the mindset, and the value of hard work. This is the kind of impression the empowered nofotane women wanted to leave on their children.
Matile Alapati, a 21 year old mother of Falevao shared on her mother’s legacy of hard work that speaks well into her future today. Two weeks ago, Matile’s mother, the late Alisa Sani Faamatuainu passed on. Alisa was a nofotane woman from Aufaga, who stayed on at her husband’s family at Faleavao and looked after their 9 children even after her husband had passed. When the Nofotane Program came to Falevao in 2018, Alisa was one of the star earners, mastering the art of design and fabric painting which she utilized as her main income generating activity.
According to Matile, “I consented to tell my story to honor my dearest mother and to inspire other young women like me to learn from your mothers while you have the chance.” Matile is continuing the family business of designing and fabric painting with most of their products being sold at the SNPF Plaza, earning $400 - $500 a week. “Despite my parents passing, I am grateful that my mother taught me the value of hard work and the skills to be self employed, which now enables me to support my siblings education and raise my own young family.”
The rest of the 25 self employed nofotane women at the workshop related to Matile’s story, as each shared on how their economic empowerment had enabled them to leave something for their children to be passed down from generation to generation.
Even the Inspirational Speaker, Unaite Feesago of Lufilufi had lived a tough life, hence encouraged the participants not to give up easily. “We have come a long way from the struggling life of an unemployed nofotane woman. Remember, we are now facing different challenges as a business woman, and as a full time mother. The trick is in perserverance. Don’t ever give up as your children’s lives depend on you now.”
At the end of the 2-day session, we were overwhelmed by the transformation we’ve seen and the vibrant energy of the nofotane women as they joyfully shared on their journey of empowerment.
Siliniu Lina Chang, the President of SVSG therefore acknowledges the funding assistance for this project provided by the European Union (EU) through the Civil Society Support Program (CSSP). “Thank you for helping us make a difference in the lives of the nofotane women under this Program.”
Close to hundred women, village leaders, husbands and children gathered at the Congregational Christian Chursh of Samoa Hall at Satitoa during the week, to partake in the first of a series of Self Esteem Workshops for the nofotane women conducted by the Samoa Victim Support Group,.
From learning management skills, to improved accessibility to markets, to fostering creativity and innovation through financial literacy, the workshop was well received by the self-employed nofotane women of Tiavea, Samusu, Satitoa, Ulutogia and Lalomanu.
The enthusiastic entrepreneurs brought their children to the workshop; some even brought their husbands. It was obvious that being a breadwinner in their families work wonders in improving the self-esteem of these nofotane women.
Smiling through tears, the participants shared their stories of change. And sustaianbe changes have been noted.
For 39 year old Sipuao Falelua of Samusu, she first attended the Nofotane Program with SVSG in 2017 where she was empowered with a business mind, not only to farm for subsistence living, but also as an income generating activity.
Sipuao talked about how she used to carry 50 packets of cucumber while walking from one village to the next, to sell them. Sipuao braved the rain and the sun for 2 years as a street vendor, until late 2019 when she had saved enough in her Bank Account with the Samoa Commercial Bank, to open a small shop infront of her house. She continues to work the land, but she now has a secured market through her small shop, selling a variety of goods, including produce from her garden.
The workshop is part of a 2-year project titled: Sustainable Income Generation & Self Employment of Nofotane Women. It is in this connection that SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledges the funding assistance for this project provided by the European Union (EU) through the Civil Society Support Program (CSSP).
Representatives from the Women In Business Incorporated (WIBDI) and the Samoa Commercial Bank (SCB) joined as SVSG’s partners in conducting the Self-Esteem Workshops for the self-employed nofotane women.
According to Siliniu, “What we have noticed this early into the Project is the support from a collective; the village leaders, the husbands, the children and the business community. While the project is to support the sustainable income generation of nofotane women, we are seeing how it is also leaving no one behind.”
Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) is pleased to announce that the High Commission of Canada in New Zealand through its Canada Fund for Local Initiative, had approved a grant for SVSG to implement a 6-months project entitled “Gender Based Violence Responsive Services for Women, Children and Vulnerable groups in the context of COVID-19.”
Nicolas Sabourin, the Counsellor for the High Commission of Canada (NZ), relayed the good news to SVSG, expressing the Fund’s willingness to work with SVSG once again to support the most vulnerable population in Samoa. “We look forward to working with SVSG on this project over the coming year.”
SVSG has provided frontline services through the operation of a 24 hour toll free Help Line for women, children and those seeking help during the COVID-19 lockdown. This project seeks to strengthen the ‘virtual response’ mechanism withing SVSG to ensure a continued successful intervention against Gender Based Violence (GBV) and the provision of support services to the at-risk population. Alongside the Help Line, this project will also enhance capacity through social media and email correspondence, helping to mitigate the resource and staff pressures currently faced by the Group.
The High Commission of Canada had previously provided support to SVSG through the CFLI oer the years, from 2011 with the compilation of legal information brochures; supporting the livelihood training of unemployed women survivors of violence with disabilities in 2014 and more recently, supporting the income generation activities of self-employed nofotane women in 2018.
According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “the support from local and international partners is vital to SVSG’s ability to scale up delivery of gender based violence responsive services to the most vulnerable groups amidst the global pandemic, and we welcome once more, the working in partnership with the High Commission of Canada New Zealand to scale up delivery of GBV responsive services in the context of COVID-19.”
With Samoa still recovering from the impact of last year’s devastating measles outbreak, and now with the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic effecting the availability of resources and resourcing at a local level, the demand on Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) services has increased significantly in recent months.
The SVSG provides shelter and support to those in need through their Campus of Hope facility, caring for up to 100 women and children seeking refuge from violence and abuse at any given time. Often these survivors are evacuated during the night, with only what they have on, and require everything from the most basic of necessities — food, toiletries and medication — to ongoing help with transport, counselling and health care, and community reintegration support.
To assist SVSG in continuing to carry out their important work, the New Zealand High Commission in Samoa has contributed ST$18,300 to enable the delivery of support and services for the next six to eight months; the bulk of which has been used to stock up on non-perishable supplies and items for Campus of Hope residents.
New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Samoa, His Excellency, Dr Trevor Matheson, will officially hand over items funded by the New Zealand High Commission, to SVSG, tomorrow, Tuesday 7 July 2020, at 10.30am at the Campus of Hope, Tuanaimato.
SVSG President, Siliniu Lina Chang, acknowledges with gratitude and appreciation the positive and proactive approach of the New Zealand High Commissioner, and the New Zealand High Commission team, in supporting women, children and survivors of violence during these challenging and uncertain times.
Women and children can access SVSG help via the 24-hour help line, at 800-7874.