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Fiame Naomi Mata'afa: a life in politics

Lotofaga Member of Parliament Fiame Naomi Mataafa’s exit from Cabinet and the party of Government on Friday stoked nearly as much interest as her ascent as the country's first woman Deputy Prime Minister. 

Four years and a little over five months ago on 18 March, 2016, she was appointed as Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister.

Fiame goes down in the history books as the first woman to ever hold the office in Samoa.

And it was Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi who made the historic announcement in 2016. But her life in politics stretches back decades. 

The announcement came after Fiame beat Faumuina Tiatia Liuga during the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) caucus vote two weeks earlier where she also became the Deputy Party Leader.

The vote was 21-19 in favour of Fiame, a source told the Sunday Samoan in early March of 2016.

When she was named Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame also became the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (M.N.R.E.).

In March, 2016, she told the Sunday Samoan she was honoured by her party’s faith in her.

“I’m happy not only for my constituency but for the sake of gender equality in Samoa. It sets a pathway for us and for other females to recognise their potential,” said Fiame.

Fiame believes women need to participate and engage in political dialogue and developments to give themselves a chance to be appointed to such high offices.

Women can only be part of the political leadership if they are proactive, participate and remain engaged, she said.

At that early March 2016 meeting where Fiame was voted in as Deputy P.M., the H.R.P.P. unanimously agreed for Tuilaepa to continue as leader.

“I think the party also is rewarding the Prime Minister for his leadership,” she said at the time.

With the H.R.P.P. returning to Parliament five years ago in the 2016 General Elections with such force, Fiame said there are some areas Tuilaepa is not very popular in “but he’s the leader” and “we would have to question our sanity if we change our leader.”

The perception with politics “is that it’s a dangerous game,” she said, but if people remain focused quality of life can be improved.

Fiame, who was born in 1957, lived in the village of Lotofaga for seven years before she ran for office. 

She first entered Parliament as the M.P. for Lotofaga in 1985. 

Fiame first entered the Cabinet in 1991 as Minister of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) and held that position until 2006. 

She has held multiple Cabinet portfolios including Minister of Women Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.) and Minister of Justice and Courts Administration (M.J.C.A.) from 2006-2011. 

She has represented Samoa on Executive Boards of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (U.N.E.S.C.O.) and the Governors of the Commonwealth of Learning.

Fiame has been Chair and Pro-Chancellor of the University of South Pacific (U.S.P.) and  Chair of the Eminent Persons’ Advisory Panel (Pacific Leadership Programme) Australia. 

She is a member of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) at Lotofaga in Aleipata.

The title Fiame was awarded to her by her family in 1978. It was previously held by her father, Samoa’s first Prime Minister Fiame Mata’afa Faumuina Mulinuu II.

In April 2020, the Prime Minister Tuilaepa implied that Fiame resign when she disagreed with him on the floor of Parliament.

In 2017, she was awarded the Stars of Oceania Individual’s Award.

Fiame was educated at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School and Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

In 2018, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from U.S.P.

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