Samoa marks White Cane Day with parade
The Samoa Blind Peoples’ Association (S.B.P.A.) commemorated the International White Cane Day at the Samoa Tourism Authority fale on Friday morning.
The Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, said the commemoration is very important for Samoa.
“The aim is for everyone to be given equal opportunities and to ensure that no one is left behind,” he said.
This is the second time White Cane Day has been celebrated in Samoa. The Samoa Blind Peoples’ Association has more than 200 members and the majority turned up for the occasion. The theme of the celebration was “White cane remove barriers.”
For 28-year-old, Siona Talailemotu, the day made him feel important. Born blind, he received his white cane two years ago.
“My whole life without a white cane was a struggle and I felt so useless having my relatives around me to guide me everywhere I go,” he said.
“But when I got my white cane, I felt like I can see where I’m going. I can travel the world with my white cane alone without having to rely on someone anymore.”
Mr. Talailemotu is from Leauva'a. He is a member of the S.B.P.A.
Another member is 24-year-old Kiwi Fa'amanatu, who became blind at five months old, and started using his white cane at Year 8.
“I see it (white cain) as a person I go with, in other words, it’s my soul mate and I cannot see myself going anywhere without my white cane. I’m very blessed as a blind person to have it with me.
The celebration kicked off with a parade from the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (F.E.S.A) towards the Government building.
The Samoa disability programme is funded by the government of Australia.
Australian High Commissioner, Sara Moriarty, addressed the celebration.
“The white cane is a demonstration of how a seemingly simple tool can have a profound impact on the independence and equality,” she said.
“International cane day is an important opportunity to raise awareness of what can be achieved by persons who are blind in the sight of the world.”
World Health Organization's (W.H.O), Dr. Rasul Baghirov said Samoa is a country of spirit and in that spirit, it allows blind people in Samoa to excel in education, professional development and social life.
“Today we acknowledge and celebrate the determination of blind people to go beyond barriers and participate fully as equal members of society.”
Samoa ratified the International Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in Dec 2016, signalling the Government's commitment to people with disabilities.
“The government continues to support and promote opportunities to develop people with disabilities,“ Tuitama said.
President of S.B.P.A, Mata'afa Fuatino Utumapu, acknowledged all the stakeholders in making the day possible.
“The day is important but what matters the most is the significance of white cane as both a tool and a support for persons who are blind and that is what we should embrace and celebrate every day,“ she said.
“My white cane is an extension of my fingers. It enables me to travel to and from work and play my part as a citizen in our country.”
“Through the tip of the white cane, I feel the softness of grass, the cracks of the fence of our homes and also the roughness of surfaces that are often put before descending and ascending steps. Without my white cane to guide me, I am not able to go alone.”