Over the last two years, Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) took up the economic empowerment of women as an intervention to help turn the tide on the increased incidences of violence against women and girls in Samoa.
It has been a challenging process that involved unpacking myths around cultural mindsets, attitudes and beliefs towards nofotane women, so as to encourage positive and sustained behavioral changes.
Today, SVSG bears witness to the significant changes in the lives of the nofotane women under its economic empowerment program. This is through the positive progress made in changing mindsets and attitudes at the village level, to the specific gender equality issues that many nofotane women used to face, such as low self-esteem and unemployment.
As the Sustainable Income Generation Project for the self-employed nofotane women reached Luatuanuu during the week, close to 50 women from the villages of Letogo, Laulii, Leusoalii, Luatuanuu and Eva have eagerly gathered to share their success stories, while anticipating to learn more ways to improve their small business ventures.
Yes. From the usual shy and stress looking mothers, we’ve seen confident and happy women with a purpose; to provide for their families financially, while supporting their husbands with the daily household decisions. The mentality change had started with these nofotane women; that they are equally important as men and that their contribution within the family is valued.
There were nofotane women as old as 72 years of age as per Loto Faatafa Faalelei of Letogo, with the youngest being a 19 year old young mother of Luatuanuu.
One of the star earners was Sinatala Leota, a 49 year old nofotane woman of Eva, who had left her maiden family at Salani Falealili, to live with her husband and 9 children. Sinatala shared on how she walked from Mondays to Fridays covering 3 villages to sell the different products from her baking, a skill she learnt from the Nofotane Program in 2017. Sinatala earns the family $100 a day from her sales. What stood out from Sinatala’s journey is not so much the income she is now earning, but the feeling of being valued by her family. According to Sinatala, “my bakery business is something that my whole family is now involved in with so much joy. As a family, we discussed our earnings, our expenses and even money set aside for our Savings Account. It is a perfect diversion from violence, not only for my children, but also for my husband and I.”
The Self-Esteem Workshop also encouraged the women to form network groups to support each other in their respective businesses. A group of nofotane earners from Laulii is one of the network groups formed two years ago, but is continuing to date, with success.
And in ensuring that the women’s income generation activities are sustainable, we had representatives from one the project partners, the Bank of the South Pacific presenting on the benefits of savings and opening a Bank Account. Together with the distribution of a 4-series brochures from the Central Bank of Samoa on Spending, Borwwoing, Saving and Managing Money, the nofotane women have improved financial literacy necessary to support their businesses into the future.
Siliniu Lina Chang, the President of SVSG therefore acknowledges the funding assistance for this project provided by the European Union (EU) through the Civil Society Support Program (CSSP). “With your financial assistance, we are adequately supported to sustain the income generating activities of the self-employed nofotane women, and in turn, help in turing the tide on violence against women and girls in Samoa.”