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Faafafine sports day with a serious message

Members of the Samoa Faafafine Association (S.F.A) gathered for a sports day on Saturday in the name of raising awareness of sexual health. 

The one-day event at at Leififi College field was funded by the United Nations Development Program Global Fund as a means of encouraging good sexual health practices among the Association's membership and raising public awareness. 

The S.F.A Project Coordinator, Lauano Ashley Lauano, says the Association is seeking to combat a perception that sexually transmitted infections (S.T.I.s) are a problem confined to faafafine.

"[The] majority of our country [believes] S.T.I.s and H.I.V. or these deadly diseases are mostly spread by faafafine, but according to records [at] the hospital, none of the faafafine are affected," she said.

Saturday's event was kicked off with a morning service and a day of traditional Samoan sporting games, which, according to Lauano, was a way of instilling fa'asamoa (the Samoan way) into their faafafine identity. Members competed in events such as tuugataga (sack racing), tosogamaea (tug of war) and more.

All participating members were tested by registered faafafine nurses at the Motootua Hospital in the name of promoting awareness of S.T.I.. 

The second primary purpose of the day, organisers said, was to attract faafafine, especially younger ones, to the Association. Lauano said it was important for the organisation's younger members to have a chance to interact in a forum other than social media and have a chance to network, discuss issues and simply get to know each other. 

"Disagreement between them is caused mainly from them not knowing each other so today, having this sport day is already making them get along in the process we're trying to achieve," Lauano said.

The Association's President, Alex Su'a, declared that the faafafine sports day will now be held annually as it was already generating positive feedback from members.

One of the participating members, Linzy Vito, said this was the first time she had ever participated in a faafafine event and it was already becoming a good influence on her life as an 18 year old faafafine.

"I wasn't sure I was going to be here but then after half of today, I felt so addicted and I want to keep coming back for more events like these and prevent the spread of [S.T.I.s]," she said.

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