Project to empower women moves up another gear

By Aruna Lolani and Fetalai Tuilulu’u ,

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TAKING IT TO THE NEXT STAGE: The drivers of the Nofotane project during a press conference in Apia this week.

TAKING IT TO THE NEXT STAGE: The drivers of the Nofotane project during a press conference in Apia this week.

A project designed to empower women by educating and changing attitudes towards the treatment of women has progressed to its second stage.

The Nofotane Project driven by the Samoa Victim Support Group with assistance from their partners has launched a multi-media campaign to promote awareness about its goals.

During a press conference at Tufuiopa this week, the second phase of the project was launched during a press conference. Present were Mulipola Anarosa Molio’o, the Programme coordinator for UN Women in Samoa, Suisala Mele Maualaivao and members of the Nofotane Project committee.

The Nofotana Project started in July 2016. The first part targeted the education of members of the Committee about what the project aims to achieve.

Now the second phase is to promote the aims of the project among members of the public so they too can help address some of the issues faced by women who are referred to as nofotane.  Nofotane by the way is a Samoan term for a women who marries into a family. 

Often it comes with negative connotations.

These are some of the problems the programme hopes to address.

“Well this project didn’t just start from anywhere,” said Mulipola. 

“It came from members of S.V.S.G. because from all the findings and documents given to us, they indicated that 80% of the cases consists of ‘nofotane’ being victims and that is why we have initiated this project.

 “We have here with us today; representatives from different villages as our committee because they have been the ones who were involved in this programme throughout this year.

 “These are the people that will be promoting our programme, making people understand what we’re trying to do.

 “We can’t just go to every nofotane because we don’t have the right so it is our duty to consult the village councils about what we’re trying to do so they can help us make our job easier, with our hope that there will be changes for nofotane.”

Suisala said UN Women fully supports the programme.

 “For those who aren’t aware, the fund for gender equality is a global fund and so has given the equivalent of 64 million dollars over the last five years around the world. 

“But the only successful applicant in the Pacific has been the Samoa Victim Support Group and I want to congratulate them with regards to leading this type of work in the Pacific. 

“Along with that we have to recognize that this fund focuses on two areas; Women’s political engagement and leadership and Women’s economic empowerment. 

 “So through the Nofotane Project, this is an opportunity to target a marginalised section of the population so that they can have economic empowerment and through that, have the means to be able to be leaders of their community by contributing more. 

 “And we see this as an excellent way to show that women can be contributors but also that they can be leaders.

“We congratulate S.V.S.G. for targeting that area, we also know that it needs to be initiatives that have great impacts but are also culturally sensitive and so the fact that as S.V.S.G. has gone into the communities first to meet with the village council to go to the villages, guarantees that the communities understand what this project is about. 

“That’s very important to guarantee that we have buy in and we have success because one thing we all know is that nobody likes having projects voiced on you but you want to be able to have agencies and to feel that it is considering your needs and concerns of your communities so that’s something that’s really relevant.

Suisala said the goal is that at the end of the day, everyone benefits.

“It’s not just a matter of women in this community but we know that when women are included and have economic empowerment, their families and communities benefit as well. 

So ultimately this is good for Samoa,” she said.

The President of the Samoa Victim Support Group, Siliniu Lina Chang, explained that the project does not attempt to change the Samoan culture in relation to nofotane women. 

“A nofotane woman will always be a nofotane; the project is not attempting to change this cultural aspect of the FaaSamoa. 

The project merely aims to improve the economic empowerment of women and to increase their participation in domestic and community matters,” she said in a statement.

She acknowledges that while there are mixed views on the using of the word nofotane, S.V.S.G’s position is clear and that it is not out there to change anything, whether it’s the nofotane name or the nofotane social standing, but simply to improve the economic empowerment of women and their participation in family and village matters.

“For the economic empowerment of nofotane women to work, we need your support Samoa. Be sensitized on the issues faced by nofotane so that we can lend them the support that they rightly deserve.  Because at the end of the day, a nofotane woman will always be a nofotane.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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