Unasa’s breakthrough initiative

Story and photo: Women in Leadership Samoa


Unasa Iulia Kelekolio-Seuala, a community leader is helping bring positive change in her community of Lalomanu, through her Break Through Initiative which was initiated from the Transformational Leadership Development Programme Training in December, 2018.

The TLDP training was organised and facilitated by the Women in Leadership in Samoa (WILS) Project, a three – year United Nations Joint project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, with funding from the Australian Government and the Government of Samoa.

During the TLDP training, each participant was given the chance to initiate a BTI, around issues they see are happening within their communities and organisations.

A Break Through Initiative from the TLDP training is an opportunity for a new possibility, a break from the past, which honours and transcends the past and embraces the future. 

A Break Through Initiative replaces resignations, hopelessness and despair with empowering interpretations and a stand for a new future. Once pressing issues are identified, these BTI will help address them with the intention of giving its target audience a future that is different from what is predictable and expected.

As part of her take away from TLDP, Unasa has initiated a Break through Initiative as an outcome of the TLDP training, and have reached out to potential people in her community to formulate a working committee to work with her in the implementation of her Break Through Initiative,

Unasa, within her role as the Treasurer/Member of the District Development Committee for Aleipata District Development Plan, attended the Transformational Leadership Development Program (TLDP) training in late 2018, which highlights ‘changing mindsets’ as an important tool for bringing about positive change in a community.

She helped bring about change in her community.

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“In regards with so many act of violence in the community, help must be sorted and seen to overcome the problem within the community,” said Unasa.

“With all the many solutions and recommended actions that we tell women and their families to consider in regards to ending violence in their homes, I believe that the first action that needs to be taken is to “talk” about the problem, talk helps you to address what the root of the problem is. 

“All families have different issues and reasons why these problems exist, perhaps it goes back to the upbringing of certain people, where fear and violence was used to gain respect and honour.”

As a community leader, she has made a few interventions to help minimize and address this problem, with the support of key persons in the Women’s society.

She also faces challenges in changing mindsets and cannot do it alone, thus seeking help from others in the community to help her in the quest. 

Unasa says personal transformation is very important for social transformation.

“When you take your personal problems into a community setting it is somehow portrays as a social problem which makes everyone involved, but unless you transform yourself first as an individual, you are unable to have that social transformation in our communities.

“As a leader, having participated in the TLDP training, I am able to understand my values, identifying my fears, especially the fear of “background conversation”. These background conversation includes belittling myself, of my strengths and ability as a woman and as a leader, which then result in me procrastinating on tasks given or not being able to deliver in my role as a leader in my community and as a mother in my home. 

“As a leader, I need to transform myself first before reaching out to my community women and men to assist in their transformation as a society in order to be empowered, acknowledging their values and letting go of their fears in order to address the violence that still exists in our homes”.

“There is always the challenge of having the background conversations, Ia ua gogofo, gogofo, omai fai nei polokalame about myself as a leader.” 

After TLDP training, she was able to slowly overcome this challenge by constantly reminding herself and standing by her values which gave her the motivation to work towards accomplishing her goal in raising awareness of Gender Based Violence in her community.

Also, having the strength to face her District Hospital Women’s Committee as the chairperson to discuss and work with them to support the SN (Village Representatives) especially the community Church Minister as the Committee Parton instead of against them in their committee on how to improve and incorporate relevant programs to address the issue of Gender Based Violence through their DDP in their district as part of their commitment.

Her encouragement for women of all ages is, “I encourage you all, if I can do it, you can do it too.”

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