What men can do, women can also do.
Maaola Fiu Pepe is a woman on a mission to prove that women have the capability to do what the world considers a man’s field of profession.
Maaola is the only female fortunate enough to be included in the 31 shortlisted candidates being assessed by some New Zealand employers who were in Samoa earlier this week to recruit Samoan carpenters and hammer hands. This is part of the Pacific Trades Partnership.
The 24-year-old is from the village of Sili, Savaii and studied at Church College Vaiola where she started to learn about carpentry.
“I chose the option of carpentry because I had a passion for building home furniture, and so from Year 10-13, I had that as a major,” Maaola said.
“After my high school years, I got the opportunity to be accepted into the Faculty of Education in N.U.S.”
“But I did not want to take it, not only were there so many years to accomplish it, but I also had my heart set on something else.”
“And that was pursuing my carpentry dream wherever it may take me.”
“In my family, there is a plumber, a teacher, a mechanic, a farmer, and an electrician but there is no carpenter.”
“I served an apprenticeship for two years in the National University of Samoa under the apprenticeship scheme of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.),” she said.
“It was through my apprenticeship that I was awarded a scholarship for six months in Vanuatu from Australia-Pacific Technical College.”
“I graduated from Australia-Pacific Technical College with a certificate of carpentry and construction.”
“After graduating last year, I worked for Craig Construction Ltd in Ululoloa.”
“Even though the job I had was very good, but to me I somehow was not interested because I was in charge of looking after tools and supply orders.”
“In April of this year, I resigned from my work with the goal of wanting to learn and gain more knowledge in the carpentry profession,” she said.
“Mainly the motivation behind me being here is my main belief that what men can do, women can do too.”
“In our Samoan culture, there is an ancient saying: ‘The legacy of women is one of a total achievement’, in my own translation: women have the will to do great things.”
“But in my family, they do not want me to do any hard labor. It is through the respect given to me by my brothers as their sister, which is why they act that way. It is all due to the strong Samoan culture practiced in our family.”
“But I still wanted to pursue my dream with all my heart. It is not only for me but for a better future that I can offer my family. If I am able to support my family with my dream then I will be satisfied that all my hard work and efforts were not in vain, it was all worth the sweat,” she added.
Aassessor for the Pacific Trades Partnership, who is also a lecturer from Ara Institute of Canterbury, Mick Cooke said: “Unfortunately, there are those out there that have the old beliefs that women have no place in this profession of carpentry.”
“But in my opinion, this industry need people like Maaola, to set the standards. She is very good. When you see the quality of the works visually, the processes she followed of working. She looks very determined and motivated, you can tell by how she is into everything she does.”
“Imagine her in five years’ time fully qualified after fulfilling her apprenticeship, working to be a leading hand and many people will follow her,” Mr. Cooke said.