Samoa’s finest graduated from this year’s Leadership Samoa program yesterday, in the presence of their families, colleagues, friends and government ministers.
The class of 2017/18 have completed a year of research and planning into some of the issues that affect Samoa, like tourism, blood donations, the electoral system and even sexual harassment.
Acting Prime Minister Tuitama Dr. Leao Talalelei Tuitama gave an address to the class, followed by Peseta Dr Desmond Lee-Hang, a deputy vice chancellor of the National University of Samoa (N.U.S).
A representative and leader of the cohort, Mandy Fialogo Skelton-Keil presented a vote of thanks, where she shared a key takeaway from the program.
“We have learned that you can change the world without formal authority.”
For the end of the program, the class has collaborated on a final project: they have devised a policy for workplaces to address sexual harassment, and now have three years to implement it.
For Ms Skelton-Keil that means every workplace in Samoa, and already the Public Service Commission (P.S.C) has taken a good look.
In their research, each of the 17 participants surveyed their own workplaces to learn the extent of lived experiences of sexual harassment, and what actions their peers had taken.
Their survey spanned both the private and public sector, as the participants come from a wide range of employment, from government and the banking sector, to development agencies and media companies.
Akeli Tuuano from the Development Bank of Samoa said it is so important the issue is spoken about more.
“It’s about how we work together to limit sexual harassment at work so that we can all work together in peace,” he said.
He said some workplaces have policies in place but they don’t educate or empower their staff about it.
Leadership Samoa chief executive officer Seumanu Douglas Ngau Chun said he is optimistic the next three years of implementation will go well.
“I don’t see why it would be hard to adopt such a policy,” he said.
The work outlines a definition of sexual harassment, and offers guidelines for how to manage different circumstances employers and employees might face.
Seumanu said an important learning has been defining sexual harassment in a culturally relevant way.
Cultural practices or misinterpreted jokes were just some of the elements that were factored into the research, Mr Tuuano explained.
“Samoans can often make jokes that they think are funny but really they hurt,” he said.