Young Deaf Association advocate awarded
Maselina Iuta Fiso of the Deaf Association of Samoa is delighted after receiving a Commonwealth Youth Award from the United Kingdom's High Commission in recognition of her advocacy work for people with hearing disabilities.
The 23-year old from Sataua told the Samoa Observer she was delighted to have her advocacy work be recognised.
“Firstly, I give all the glory to God for his blessing and giving me this opportunity to receive this award,” she said.
“I was not expecting to receive this award. I am thankful to Nuanua o le Alofa (N.O.L.A) and the Deaf Association in Samoa for supporting me throughout this journey.
“It encourages me to stand up and fight for this, for that, I’m speechless and thankful.”
Maselina said recently several career opportunities had opened up for her recently despite her hearing disability.
“Many opportunities were provided for us especially Government Ministries that gave me much more experience” she said.
Maselina speaks out on behalf of Samoan deaf people and advocates for their rights.
“I want to take the lead of being a deaf person and have everything in life," she said.
"Even though we have special needs conditions but there are lots of opportunities for us to work with not only in organisations and private sectors but within our families and villages as well as our churches.
"My advice is [...] join in with them there is a possibility for us and people who have helped us in developing our skills,"
She said that she was also fighting to overcome the social stigma experienced by many Samoans living with a disability.
“Us having disabilities doesn’t mean we don’t work; we do work and for that, I have urged everyone to stand up," she said.
"We have also worked together with the Deaf Association of Samoa in fighting for our rights [...] so that we can have equal opportunities in life."
Maselina said living away from her parents was one of the hardest aspects of her current professional life but she is grateful for the faith her parents have placed in her.
"To my parents dearly, thank you so much for letting me come all the way from Savai'i and stay here because of work, and for that the award that I'm receiving is for them and their prayers and support and putting all their trust in me," she said.
The award was presented on Thursday. The disability advocacy group, Nuanua o le Alofa (N.O.L.A), said it was very pleased one of its members had been so recognised and hoped the work of others would be too, in the future.