The Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, has defended the Nofotane programme against criticisms from a fellow Member of Parliament.
The Nofotane project is run by the Samoa Victims Support Group with assistance from UN Women. It is designed to address the stigma associated with women who marry into families. It is also geared towards empowering them.
But the goals of the programme were questioned by Member of Parliament Sulamanaia Fetaia’i Tuiavasa who said the programme has the wrong focus.
“This programme is trying to promote the nofotane when that is what they are, they are nofotane,” he said, adding that no stupid family in Samoa would treat the nofotane women any differently.
But the Minister disagrees.
Speaking in Parliament, she made it clear that while the Nofotane project is not a government project, her Ministry supports the initiative as part of overall effort to reduce gender-based violence.
“I want to elaborate on this subject, as I received many calls about this issue,” she said.
“I must address it because the public is listening and most especially women whose feelings were hurt. I want to be the voice of these women, to express their displeasure.
“They felt belittled yet the women’s role is vital to the development of families, villages, churches, countries and the government.”
Sulamanaia disagreed that he belittled women.
“The intention is not to belittle the nofotane but the point is how the nofotane are being used to get money and to promote this project,” he said.
“If the nofotane women are being used by this project, the money should go directly to the nofotane.
“It’s clear this grant is not directed to the nofotane. I am appealing to you to have these funds directed to your Ministry then you can distribute to the nofotane women in the villages, that is my concern.
“The nofotane women are being used to gain money, but they don’t benefit from it.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi intervened.
“The focus of the meeting has shifted due to emotions generated from unfounded opinions,” he said.
“The funds received are not for distribution. They are for projects to raise awareness in villages, targeting women who have been abused.”
But Minister Faimalotoa was still unimpressed with Sulumanaia.
She said his comments were insensitive and it’s such attitudes that need to change.
ABOUT THE NOFOTANE PROJECT
The Nofotane Project aims to improve the economic empowerment of women and to increase women’s participation in domestic and community matters.
The project focuses on improving the quality of life for married women living with their husbands’ families.
S.V.S.G’s programme is one of the 24 funded programmes, selected from 1400 applicants worldwide by the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality, to be implemented in 2016-2018. This is a first for Samoa and the first for the Pacific region.