A role model for the young women of Samoa has urged the young people of the nation to follow their dreams.
The encouragement came from the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.CS.D), Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa, last week.
She was the guest speaker during the Young Women Christian Association (Y.W.C.A) of Samoa, also known as Tamaitai Talavou Kerisiano Samoa, during its first Young Women’s RISE UP Forum at the Ministry of Health’s Conference room.
The Forum commemorated the UN 16 days for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Fuimapoao encouraged the young women in their endeavours to serve their communities as young leaders. She related her personal experience about raising her own children and encouraging both sons and daughters equally to follow their dreams and know that opportunities abound for them without restriction.
Juli Dugdale, of the World Y.W.C.A was in attendance to witness the growth of Y.W.C.A since it was revived in 2013.
She introduced the World Y.W.C.A project called “In her Shoes” in which young women spoke of their experiences about abuse, using a pair of shoes (to represent the victim of abuse) and a short written story about the abuse suffered.
This was a very touching and emotional presentation by five young women and revealed some of the abuse that young women in Samoa are facing and how they confront these issues or sadly, how some of them are unable to bear the burden and have ended their lives.
These stories were not easy for the participants to hear, but it was acknowledged that if young women do not discuss these difficult issues in a safe space, it will be difficult for them to protect themselves and to counsel others including youth and older men, not to commit such abuse, because young women deserve to live free of abuse.
Reactions from participants included: “ I was so happy to be part of this meeting and to discuss issues that affect me as a young woman. I know that I can be confident to face these issues in my community.”
Another one said: “This is the first time I have been involved in an organization such as this and I am learning a lot about the importance of knowing my legal rights and God’s purpose for me. The idea of young women teaching other young women is really great!”
Avah Naomi Woyengu from P.N.G Y.W.C.A who is leading the RISE UP peer educator programme within the Pacific region, presented certificates to the first graduating class of 20 Peer Educators. Since the inception of the RISE UP programme three months ago, the Peer Educators have delivered training to over 120 young women in rural and urban areas.
The organization now has a cadre of young women capable of delivering training on human rights, healthy relationships, sexual and reproductive health rights and other issues relevant to the lives of young women between the ages of 18 to 30 years of age.
Lesley Pruitt of Monash University Gender Peace and Security Centre also attended the forum to carry out research on leadership programs for young women in the region, which will support the establishment of a Y.W.C.A Global Leadership Academy.
The Annual General meeting for the organization was also held on the same day and the annual report presented to current members. Again for many young women this was their first experience of participating in an Annual General Meeting and the forum itself was a training ground for future leaders.
The Y.W.C.A of Samoa is a member of the World Y.W.C.A international body of 120 member organizations of young women of different faiths.
At the closing of the forum, the young women were united in spirit to continue moving forward in pursuit of the Y.W.C.A of Samoa vision to become “Christian Young Women, Leading positive Change, Confident in their Rights, Conserving their Samoan Culture and Constant in Faith”.