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.”