The contribution from community leaders and the husbands of the nofotane women, to the improved access of women from the Safata constituency to sustainable employment, highlighted progress being made in advancing gender equality in Samoa through the work of Samoa Victim Support Group.
This was evidence by the participation from village leaders of Vaiee, Fusi and Sataoa at the 12th Workshop Session for the self-employed nofotane women.
While the economic empowerment of nofotane women challenged the social norms surrounding gender role stereotype and men being breadwinners in a family, the presence of chiefs and high chiefs to this women’s gathering has been a welcoming sight.
It speaks of mentality change, of behavioral change, and/or attitudinal changes towards nofotane women, with cascading benefits for all women in Samoa
They are referred to as the protectors of families, the peace makers or ‘pae ma le auli’, or simply put, the ‘go to person’ for anything you need in your home. They are seldom recognized for being the first to rise in the morning, and the last one to go to sleep, to ensure that her family is well taken care of, given this is what is expectedof them from society.
Which was why the presence of the village leaders at the Nofotane Program held at Vaiee, speaks of recognition; of acceptance; and of acknowledgement by the men, of the important role of women in our lives. It is a silent declaration of the saying that, ‘behind any good man, is a better woman.’
It even makes the stories of change all so inspiring, as shared by Tiomai Semi Ah Lam of Vaiee, now a nofotane woman of Falelauniu; and Mauli Teo Pelema from Fagafau Savaii, now a nofotane woman of Vaiee.
SVSG’s work in the village communities have been made much easier by the acceptance of the Group by the villages as family. The sustainability of its program has therefore been taken up by the villages themselves, as we have witnessed at Vaiee.
“Thank you so much Lealaimunā & Polima Mapusaga, as well as Pauga Tiitii Tuiletufuga who are the SVSG Village Representatives at Vaiee, for coordinating such a beautiful gathering. We greatly value the patriotic spirit the men had brought to the forum and their support for the women.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Thank you also to the partnership with the European Union for funding this important project for the nofotane women of Samoa, through the Civil Society Support Program.
There has been a noted connection between improved self-esteem in women and their abilities to form support networks with other women, as the Nofotane Program continues in village communities.
This connection was highlighted by the sharing amongst the 37 nofotane women from Nofoalii, Fasitoo-tua, Tufulele and Satapuala, who gathered at Faleasiu for the the 11thsession of Self-Esteem workshops for self-employed nofotane women.
Included in the training was one of the Star Earners from the 2016-2018 Nofotane Program, the 61 year old Beauty Luteru of Faleasiu.
Before the Nofotane livelihood training reached Faleasiu in October 201717, Beauty had already earned an income through selling Samoan cocoa. What Beauty learnt from the program was to ‘think bigger and outside of her comfort zone.’
As the Inspirational Speaker for the 11th workshop session, the beauty of being empowered, of working in a support network of women with a common goal of helping each other, and of securing overseas markets for her Samoan cocoa products, was obvious. Beauty has expanded her small business to include vegetable gardening and sewing. She helps her husband with decisions on matters concerning their immediate family; and her views are also sought when the extended family gathers. While her participation and her recognition in her family are all new to Beauty, these are not changing how she sees herself, as a nofotane woman, who knows her place in the family. Such a woman of courage, so much humility.
The secret to Beauty’s success was her ‘thinking big’, which includes the extension of her support to other women in her village of Faleasiu, which has become her support network. Beauty now has a Bank Account with goes to show how far she has come as a nofotane woman with a sustainable income.
To think that 2 years ago, these women were merely carrying out domestic duties for their families without any plans of becoming breadwinners, is inspirational. In additional, they have proven to themselves that they can be both a mother and a supporter of their families development through sustainable income, and are doing a good job at it.
With funding support from the European Union through the Civil Society Support Program, Samoa Victim Support Group continues to support the income generating activities of nofotane women, which has proven to have cascading benefits on these women’s families and village communities alike.
Being successful comes after a series of failures, disappointments, rejections and criticism but still persist. This is why success for the self-employed nofotane women under the SVSG Nofotane Program, is said to be bitter sweet. To actually believe in your own self is more than simply believing in your own ultimate success. It is a total mindset change, as the positive overrides the negativity.
This was the feeling amongst the participants to the 10th session of Self-Esteem Workshops conducted by Samoa Victim Support Group for the self-employed nofotane women, with funding support from the European Union.
Held at Fasitoo-tai for the registered nofotane women to the Program from Satapuala, Faleatiu, Vailuutai and Leulumoega Tuai, the 10th session received a record number of 73 participants. While 75% of the participants attended previous economic empowerment programs carried out by SVSG, the rest were nofotane women who were empowered by the other women themselves, which highlighted a significant buy in for the project at the village level.
The ripple effect of not only being empowered, but to change mentalities along the way, is the sustainability aspect that the project seeks to acheve; and the nofotane women have exceled in it tremendously.
Take for instance, Aso Faafetai of Leulumoega-tuai, who in 2016, joined the Nofotane Program as an unemployed nofotane woman. She learnt fabric priting, commercial cooking and the basics in financial literacy while being encouraged to believe in herself through the self-esteem workshops. For a year, Aso became a street vendor, selling her bakings from village to village. According to Aso, “Despite being tired from walking on a daily basis to sell my bakings, this did not discourage me, as much as the ridicule and the snide remarks from others.” Aso opened a Savings Account during the second year of her business and today, her savings enabled her to open a small shop in front of their house. She no longer walks for miles to sell her bakings, but is now sharing her baking skills with other nofotane women to support themselves and their families.
On the other hand, Kolopa Fale, a 70 year old mother from Satapuala shared on being an unemployed nofotane woman survivor of violence. Kolopa was physically abused by her husband while enduring the verbal put down from her in laws. It was a life, according to Kolopa, “which was marked by fear and depression” as she forced herself to sleep in the outside kitchen as her refuge from the abuse. Helpless and unemployed, Kolopa returned to her family at Satapuala with her children, where they started anew. The Nofotane Program taught Kolopa that “she is more precious than jewels ….” and it triggered a will within her to work harder. Kolopa now owns a small shop; her husband followed her and the children to Satapuala, and she took him in. With a forgiving heart and a positive mentality towards life, Kolopa is a flourishing 70 year old, who had conquered the challenges that came with being an unemployed nofotane women.
“Thanks to the funding support from the European Union through the Civil Society Support Program, SVSG continues to help women of courage such as Aso Faafetai, Kolopa Fale, and many others, whose lives are the living proofs of how a positive mentality sustains women empowerment.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
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
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