Mother-of-six sews in project to mend downturn's impact

A mother-of-six from Toamua and one of 15 ‘nofotane’ seamstresses part of a project helping her to achieve financial independence by sewing face masks for COVID-19 protection. 

She is one of the women who have been given the opportunity to sew masks for COVID-19 protection while earning them income to support their families amidst this health and economic crisis.

The term ‘nofotane’ in Samoa refers to women who, after marriage, live in their husband’s village and family.  

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Vaine Palaamo Elisara said that she earns $400 per week after sewing 200 face masks. 

Ms. Elisara is under Samoa Victim Support Group’s women empowerment programme courtesy of the continued partnership with the European Union and United Nations’ Spotlight Initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (U.N.D.P.). 

“For years, I was unemployed because I had the duty of looking after my parents,” she said. 

“But with the project, I am able to earn money just from home.

“I don’t need to go anywhere, the programme supplies the materials and they only charge me for my labour which only took me three days to make 200 masks.”

The 48-year-old said that the nofotane project allowed her to improve her skills in being a seamstress to help her family financially.

“I truly believe in the power of prayer and hard work to help anyone succeed in anything they set their minds to,” she said. 

“Many years ago, my husband left our family and for more than six years I raised my children alone and also took care of my elders. It felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders.

“I admit it is not an easy journey but I am happy to say my children are able to have a good education and are studying in universities.”

She said that her husband returned to the family home and was shocked that her family is doing financially well.

“There [is] food on the table; there is money for the children’s education,” she said. 

“I want to encourage all women that they have the power to do so much with God’s help and their never perseverance.

“And instead of staying home and doing only chores, they can take up a skill such as sewing or handicrafts to earn a living to support families.”

The specific focus of the initiative is sewing 100 per cent cotton face masks utilising the skills of nofotane seamstresses.

It seeks to alleviate domestic violence amidst the COVID-19 crisis, as families are feeling the pressures of unemployment and spending 24/7 in each other’s company during recent restrictions on movement. 

The face masks are sewn and made available in local stores. 

Their production is being closely monitored by S.V.S.G. to ensure quality control.

The group says that there is a recognised link between domestic violence and access to livelihood income; there is, therefore, an imperative to look after vulnerable groups during economic crises. 

The S.V.S.G. President, Siliniu Lina Chang thanked Louisa Apelu, who is the UNDP Spotlight Initiative Programme Coordinator and team, for helping the non-Government organisation address the social and economic impact of COVID-19.



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