Replicating the success of the nofotane to assist poverty-hit families

The other day the Samoa Observer newspaper ran an inspiring story of a woman.

She was unemployed, but took a step into the deep unknown through the Nofotane Project, and today earns a living by selling jewellery that she and her family created.

Thirty-seven-year-old Rosalina Viliamu of Salua, Manono-tai and her husband were unemployed, poor and dependent on other family members for survival — before she was introduced to the Nofotane Project — which was funded by the UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality and run by the Samoa Victim Support Group (S.V.S.G.).

“During that period of my life, our family struggled both financially and for food supplies, but thankfully our families were always there to help us with most of our needs,” she told this newspaper in an interview.

Participating in the training and women empowerment project had a life-changing impact on Rosalina and her family.

“I had no knowledge or skills of handicraft-making before but thankfully I learned how to produce a variety of accessories using local resources, whatever is available like making lopa necklaces, earrings and bracelets through the project,” she said.

Rosalina and her husband’s handicraft business income generation has increased from $100 to over $700 a week with their clients both local and foreign. She is one of the nofotane success stories, and was one of the 5,170 nofotane women who participated in the two-year training programme, which ended last October. 

And while the positive impact the nofotane women will have on their families will reverberate over the years, there is a need for a similar training and empowerment programme in Samoa, which will cater for the families of child vendors who live in and around Apia as well as rural-based poverty-stricken parents who are struggling to give a decent life (including basic housing) to their families.

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Everyday a child vendor in the Samoan capital is knocking on your car window to sell basic items or has gone ahead to polish your tyres, in exchange for a dime. These are some of Samoa’s most vulnerable citizens — some of them as young as five — deployed by their parents with baskets of popcorn, banana chips or cotton buds and boxes of matches to sell on the streets. 

Sometimes these children — who should be at home and out of harm’s way — end up in night club carparks and “work” late into the night. 

This newspaper has published stories on the plight of the child vendors in recent years, with parents defending their decision to send out their children to sell, often arguing that the experience will make them independent.

But the issue needs a long-term solution, and getting their parents to attend a programme which would up-skill and empower them — to open the door to employment opportunities and promotion of children-friendly decisions that would not place them in harm’s way — is the best way forward. At the end of the day, those children should be taken off the streets and put back in school, and given every opportunity to complete their education to become successful in life.

In Samoa’s rural communities, life is not getting any easier, if the stories of hardship and poverty that this newspaper has been capturing in its Village Voice pages in recent years is any indication. 

Melefiva TalafaLauiva Tau and Laulauga Faitoatasi have one thing in common — their challenges as mothers in rural Samoa were featured in this newspaper’s Village Voice pages this month — and they all dream of a better and more secure home for their children. 

All these mothers live in traditional Samoan style fales with their husbands and children, held up by wooden posts and with roofs made from coconut leaves and old corrugated iron. Most of the houses do not have walls with the families often using lavalava as an alternative, which during the wet season stands little to no chance of keeping the family warm and dry and disease-free.

It is time for the relevant Government agencies to address the housing needs of poverty-stricken Samoans living in rural areas. And whose remit can this fall under? Perhaps the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development (MWCSD) and Samoa Housing Corporation might want to take note and begin the process to formulate policy, which will enable the Government to address this issue. 

These families — who for a start cannot afford to buy building materials  — need to have access to a fund, which can either subsidise their costs or better still enable them to be gifted low-cost housing that is tailored made for Samoan families.

Having celebrated Samoa’s 53rd Independence Anniversary early this month, surely we would want to ensure all citizens get to share in the wealth and prosperity of this nation, including those who think they are downtrodden and are of the view that no one cares any more. 

Have a lovely Wednesday Samoa and God bless. 

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