The Samoa Ala Mai Team in partnership with Y.W.C.A last week, played host to three Leadership and Advocacy workshops in Savaii in the Itu o Tane and Itu Salega constituencies.
The objective of this project, funded by the Civil Society Support Program (C.S.S.P.) was to hold leadership and advocacy training with the view of identifying upcoming leaders who can make a difference to not only themselves, their families, their church and village but also to our country.
Samoa Ala Mai’s key message was to generate further awareness of women in leadership roles and how to capitalise on their existing skills through self assessment (S.W.O.T Analysis) and equip them with everyday tools to overcome risks and barriers to their growth.
Men and women from various villages and denominations including their pastors, matais’ and youths of all ages showed up in numbers and actively participated in insightful discussions on different topics like: What makes a good leader?
Good and Bad Leadership qualities, Leadership identification and most importantly, how can they, as individuals and a collective support and promote aspiring women leaders coming in their communities.
The groups exchanged views on how to break through the gender bias web, intergenerational barriers, risks of adopting change and its long and short term impacts on cultural values and principles i.e Faasamoa.
There were women vs men debate teams tackling the recurring question of whether women are adept enough and do they possess the intellect and understanding as men to be leaders in the political arena.
There were present in our midst, some enthusiastic and passionate male debaters who referred to biblical and customary folk lore to solidify their argument as the opposition, vehemently rejecting the notion of intellectual equality while the women tenaciously counter debated on their underappreciated roles as life givers to thousands of generations which included the very men opposing them at present.
Needless to say, it was a matter of which came first, “the chicken or the egg” with both groups relenting on the fact that men and women would not exist if it weren’t for the other. There was laughter and humour and lots of it. In the end, both debate teams walked away with a general consensus that
1) Women are a formidable force when united with a common goal
2) It is indeed time to embrace change and welcome women into the leadership fold.
There is no doubt Samoa has come a long way in embracing the changing tides of time. Our leaders have made conscious efforts to promote the roles and protection of women in our society as seen through the enforcements of domestic violence penalties, child abuse and protection of mother and child laws. We have also witnessed 10% of our female parliamentarians target achieved for the first time.
Yet, there is still more work to be done particularly in rural areas where the expected roles of women as mothers and life givers are woven so intricately into the very fibre of our traditions that there is little or no room for progression elsewhere.
It is the objective of Samoa Ala Mai to raise awareness about women who have broken through the proverbial glass ceiling and how with community support, educational tools and resources, a little girl from Satuiatua will realize her true potential and step out into the same leadership path.
It is also our responsibility to ensure that constituents are made aware of social issues affecting them and how to make informed choices to vote leaders who can bring about positive change, hold their representatives accountable for promises made during pre election and influence others to do the same.
As former president Mandela once stated “ We must be honest and open about the role of men and women in our society. We must help build a more enabling and supportive environment that puts the role of women centre stage in this struggle. Each one of us, sister and brother, mother and father, teacher and student, priest and parishioner, manager and worker, president and prime minister – must add your voice to this call for action”
Samoa Ala Mai will continue their leadership and advocacy workshops in Upolu covering Falealili and Safata constituencies in the coming months.