As the 2-years Nofotane Project winds down to its official closing on 20 July 2018, Samoa Victim Support Group, in partnership with UN Women Fund for Gender Equality, will share with you ‘The Voices of the Empowered Nofotane Women’
These are the stories of nofotane women who have completed livelihood trainings with the project, and have started income generating activities to support not only themselves, but also their families and their village communities. These are the stories that impact a nofotane woman, her family, her children, her village and her community.
While each story tells of the different gender equality issues these women used to face, they however highlight strong women who have found their voices from being empowered.
Tasia Naotala-Solofuti, 26 years old
Nofotane woman of Nuu-fou
Don’t Give Up!
When you think of a nofotane woman, the image that usually comes to mind is of a woman in her 30’s. She has a couple of children, she depends on her husband’s income to feed her children, and she is married to a man who is often a couple of years older than her.
Meet Tasia Naotala-Solofuti, a nofotane women of Nuu-Fou. At 26 years old, Tasia recognises that her life was one of dependency. Her husband is a taxi driver who provides for her. In addition, she would ask people for money and depended on others to look after her and her five year old son. However, after completing the nofotane livelihood skills training, she realises that she has a unique talent of turning coffee mix trash to make bags. Her orders have reached the overseas market through family and friends, and the money is good. She said, “I was never taught this type of skill in school. This is rubbish, but now I have turned it into beautiful creations.”
Tasia started off with purses and now extended her small business to handbags, tablemats and Samoan necklaces. With her son being the motivation to push through the hardships of being a young nofotane woman, Tasia now lives a happy life as a self-employed nofotane woman. She is optimistic about what the future have in store for her, as she enjoys being able to support her husband while being valued by her family.
Solia Faresa, 50 years old
Nofotane woman of Salailua
“A Humbling Experience
Nofotane women experienced being empowered differently. While some women shine with confidence, others like Solia Faresa, a 50 year old nofotane woman from Salailua Savaii, was in tears as she shared on how the program humbled her, in her relationship with her family.
Faresa is originally from Gautavai, but now lives with her husband’s family at Salailua.
She remembered being arrogant towards her husband while being bitter towards her sister in laws. It was her way of releasing the stress from being a nofotane woman. According to Faresa, the nofotane program taught her to be humble, and she is now enjoying a loving relationship with her husband and living in harmony with her sister in laws. “There is love, especially when I let go of all that had bothered me.”
Faresa’s experience attests to the socioeconomic benefit of the Nofotane project. While the women are empowered to be able to financially support themselves and their families, they have also learnt to value their importance, and this has led to improved self-esteem.
Faresa now earns $600 a day from delivering her ula accessories made from tifa seeds (black), and pieces of timber coloured red. She acknowledged her husband and children’s support with her business. Her clients now include hotels and flea market vendors.
Fetinai Teleiai, 53 years old
Nofotane woman of Samatau
“Being the Change
She wore her lopa accessory with pride and she beamed with confidence during her visit to the SVSG office.
Meet Fetinai Teleiai, a 53 year old nofotane woman of Samatau who is now the breadwinner in her family since attending the Nofotane livelihood training.
There was a quiver in her voice as she recalled the hardships she faced as a nofotane woman with 5 children, depending on the plantation and the cocoa farm, for a living.
She admitted that she tended to be sluggish most of the time, but the Nofotane program not only taught her livelihood skills, but most importantly for Fetinai, the confidence to become an agent of change.
And Fetinai has been challenged to make a change; to be able to support her family financially; to change for herself and her children. Producing bags, lopa accessories, fans and elei materials, Fetinai is now one of the self-employed nofotane women, an agent of change for her family.
Inosia Taivao – Pata Falelatai
Ula lopa, ula sisi, hand bag
A mother of three (3) from Pata Falelatai, Inosia saw the struggles with not having enough money to help their family.
Inosia was encouraged by her husband to join the Nofotane Project on 19th April 2018.
Inosia learnt to make red seed necklaces (lopa), shell necklaces (ula sisi) hand bags made out of recycled paper.
At 52 years of age, Inosia has seen great improvements in her family. She has since given up smoking to concentrate on her business that has helped to support her children and family.
Teuila Alatina – Safatoá
Keke pua (Pork Puns)
When there is no hope, no means to making money, there is no voice within her husband’s family and village. This was how Teuila from Safaatoá felt for years as there was no way to contribute to her family but more over living within her husband’s family.
Her cousin Ane informed Teuila of the SVSG Nofotane Project on 20th July 2017. Since joining the project, Teuila has seen huge changes within her home environment. Her husband is very happy and they were able to now make decisions together due to her ability to bring income into the home.
Walking from house to house selling 100 keke puaa within her village and earning $100 daily has meant a steady income is guaranteed for Teuila, her four (4) children and husband.
Teuila’s encouragement for other women is to never give up; do not be discouraged about how you will start your business. Start the business and believe in your ability to make the products from your own hands for the betterment of yourself and your family.
Toiata Lemamea – Matautu Lefaga
Elei printing and sewing
Born in the village of Falealii, Toiata moved and lived with her husband and his family in the village of Matautu Lefaga.
With her husband’s passing, Toiata continued to raise their 5 children at Matautu Lefaga. She remained silent during family affairs as she is merely a nofotane woman.
Although two of her children are now working, the burden of not making any money herself, while staying with her late husband’s family, meant Toiata continues to have a low self-esteem. She kept quiet during family discussions.
Since joining the Nofotane program when it reaches Matautu Lefaga on 20th July 2017, there has been a noted change in herself, and in her relationship with her in laws.
The ability to earn from selling elei lavalava brought a steady source of income for Toiata. With her sewing skills, Toiata is now earning as a producer of elei materials and as a seamstress. With confidence, Toiata is starting to participate in family discussions.
The Nofotane Project has given Toiata confidence since her husband’s passing; the confidence not only to provide for her children but also for her late husband’s family. Toiata now sees her role as a nofotane woman as nothing but a blessing.
President of SVSG Samoa