The wives of matai or high chiefs are nofotane who are accorded the respect to coordinate women’s committee affairs, different from the village council. This is according to high chief Faalavaau Tony of Siufaga Falelatai, who commented on the ranking of a nofotane woman. Says he “O nofotane, o faletua o fa’aaloaloga, e ave i ai le fa’aaloalo e faia upu a fono a komiti, e ese mai i pulega a alii ma faipule.”
This was one of the views expressed by participants of the fifth training session for the gender equality project currently implemented by SVSG in partnership, with the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality.
SVSG village representatives from eight villages including Matautu, Pata, Siufaga, Salua, Faleū, Satuimalufilifi, Manono-uta and Apolima-uta gathered at Faleū Manono, at the residence of village mayor Lesā Tominiko, for the 3-day training.
There were mixed views on gender equality from the participants; while others commented on support for victims of violence geared more towards women than men, others such as Leiataua Lesā Si’u of Manono-uta reiterated the importance of the project and advocating for it in village council meetings. “E tatau ona fa’ataua i totonu o nuu lenei mataupu, ma o le fono a le matou nuu o lumanai, o le a fofola ai lenei mataupu.”
For this project to make any difference in the level of recognition accorded to nofotane women in our families, SVSG will continue with advocacy training of its village representatives, to influence a change in mentality, in village leaders, in church leaders and in family leaders, so that women are equally treated as men.
According to SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “a nofotane woman will always be a nofotane; the project is not attempting to change this cultural aspect of the FaaSamoa.”
What the project aims to achieve is to improve the economic empowerment of women and to increase their participation in domestic and community matters. This is because the capacity of women to bring about economic change for themselves, families and communities, is one of the most important contributing factors to achieving gender equality.