Children, besides women and people with disabilities, are amongst the most vulnerable impacted by gender based violence during the COVID-19 crisis, according to cases lodged with Samoa Victim Support Group over the last four months.
The children are either directly affected through physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse, abandonement, starvation; or indirectly, as they witnessed violence between their parents in the home.
However, children are also the most resilience, and have become the voices for their abused parents during this time. The Help Line is giving the children and the most vulnerable, access to support any time.
The children called when they have been abused, when their parents are fighting, even when they have no food. They are also the first ones that greeted the Response Team when we visit the families to evacuate an abused victim or to deliver welfare relief packages.
And SVSG’s ability to deliver prompt responsive services such as victim evacuation, referral to hospital or to the police for severe cases, counselling or shelter, have been well supported during this time of COVID.
Besides the relief packages distributed to the families impacted greatly by socio-economic challenges of the COVID, counselling sessions are also offered for walk in clients and through the Help Line.
Roadside signboards bearing the Help Line 800-7874 raises awareness on the accessibility of support 24 hours a day.
“Thanks to the partnership with the Canadian government through the Canada Fund for Local Initiative, SVSG has been able to scale up its gender-based violence responsive services during this time, especially for the abused children.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Reviving of the traditional Samoan Culture of male respect for women and girls is the main focus of the partnership project by the UNESCO Spotlight Initiative and Samoa Victim Support Group to eliminate violence against women and girls.
Called the #SamoaWithHer Campaign, the 12-months project is fronted by the SVSG Juniors, the youth sub-group of SVSG, as part of the UNESCO Spotlight Initiative.
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. 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.
To implement the initiative, the SVSG Juniors is mobilizing 250 youth representatives from its youth alliance both in Upolu and Savaii, to participate as social animators. The youth social animators are tasked with achieving the project objectives to:
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledges the Director & UNESCO Representative to the Pacific States, Ms. Nisha and the team at UNESCO, for the confidence in SVSG to deliver on the project objectives, particularly in addressing violence against women and girls through reviving respect, as a living tradition for male towards women and girls in Samoa.
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