A story in the Village Voice section of the Samoa Observer yesterday caught this writer’s attention. It was published on page 18 under the headline “A friendly advice for the youth.”
In this day and age where there are so many problems involving young people, naturally we wanted to listen. We wanted to hear what the advice is and what could possibly be so friendly about it.
After all, we believe everyone has an opinion and they all matter in the overall effort to find some workable solutions to address the challenges our youth are struggling with these days.
In any case, the story in question highlights the life of 21-year-old Salu Leati. In the outset we learn that the young woman who is originally from Siumu is now living at Malie with her husband’s family.
When the Village Voice team spotted her, she was weeding the grass in the hot sun. All it took was a question about how her life was for her to open up.
What she said is not new. It’s something we are all too aware of but is hardly discussed. Today, we believe her story is worth thinking about. We say this because she highlights the plight of so many young Samoans – girls and boys - who get married so young only to find out just how difficult life really is.
Now listen to Salu: “We have heard so many stories about how hard it is to be a nofotane (married woman) or a faiavā (married man) in Samoa.
“We’ve also heard about how badly they are being treated by the families they married into. But I never thought the stories were true until now.
“To be honest with you, living with another family is different from your own family. I am sure you are aware of how nice it is to live with your own family.
“You are free to do whatever you want to do. But here, things are different.”
Salu goes on to talk about the nofotane concept. For those who don’t know, the term refers to a woman who marries into a family. In some circles she is expected to be the slave and do everything.
And that’s what Salu is finding.
“You know you are expected to do things for the family and people expect you to do all the chores.
“I know its part of our culture for a Samoan girl to do these when they live with her husband’s family.
I know I am not the only one or the first one to experience this or think that being a nofotane is hard.
“I tell you it is not easy. And it’s not like I didn’t hear stories about how hard it is to be a nofotane in Samoa.
“You know this was one of the things my parents kept telling me when I was young. They kept saying that I should never get married at a young age.”
Well isn’t that typical of what’s happening with so many young people today?
Parents are forever warning them about life and how hard things really are and yet they never listen.
And then when their hands get burnt and they live a life of regrets. Salu is in that category.
“I guess this is what happens when my parents send me to school and I just went off and got married.
“I thought it was the right thing to do and I was old enough to have a husband. I thought things would be easy but now that I have a taste of it, man I can tell you that it’s not easy.”
Of course it’s not easy. As adults, we know how hard it is. Raising a family is not something you just walk into without a plan. And yet so many young people are running towards it blindly and the results are disastrous. I’m sure you know someone who is experiencing this. People who are so young and yet they are fooled into thinking they can raise families.
We have many cases in Samoa where babies are basically raising babies. Some of these girls are barely teenagers when they get pregnant and are forced into the life of beginning a family.
This is why we say Salu’s story is an important one. It is extremely relevant because it is so common and yet we hardly discuss these matters. In our opinion, this has got to change. There has got to be a more concerted community effort to convince our young people to get an education first before they get into the business of raising families. There is a time for everything.
Having said that there are exceptional cases where young people forced into the life of an adult have excelled which is fantastic. But those cases are rare. In Samoa, for the majority of these cases, people like Salu end up relying on their parents who are already struggling. And vicious cycle continues.
Now today, Salu is wiser for the experience. In the Village Voice story we are referring to, she wants to advise all the other youth in Samoa to be serious about education.
“You know in this life, no one is perfect,” she said.
“We all make mistakes and we all suffer in life. But we should learn from the mistakes of others. For me, my biggest mistake is not listening to my parents.”
So there you go young people of Samoa, listen to your parents! They might not always get it right but they sure know far more than you do about this life.
Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!