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.”