‘The whole village came together. We noticed that no one was at home as every house in the village was empty, and the Malae (meeting place) was packed. Even neighbouring villages came to watch. Conversations were made! The village council [was] in full force, merely as supporters, while the women coordinated, led and implemented all aspects of the program; including the oratory role, which is usually and traditionally reserved for a male chief. It was empowerment in its purest form.’
Ms Falenaoti Mulitalo June Kolotita Ailuai, community leader, Vavau.
Project: Samoan Women Shaping Development Program
Outcome areas: Enhancing agency
Project partner: Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development
Total funding: $3,800,000*
Funding timeframe: 2015–2020
The Pacific Women-funded Samoan Women Shaping Development program is implemented by the Samoan Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development with civil society, government and private sector partners. The program’s approach to improving gender equality in Samoa is holistic and grounded in respect for Samoan culture.
Program activities over the past year have been diverse, including promoting women’s economic empowerment with traditional mat weaving, supporting the National Council of Women’s pre-election advocacy campaign and working with male volunteers to speak out against violence.
The program also supported grassroots sharing of positive gender equality messages through ‘community conversations,’ incorporating traditional learning methods like songs, poems, drama, comedy, and dancing.
Community conversations create a safe environment where everyone in the community has a voice to address important issues, so they can build a better future, together.
Samoan Women Shaping Development hosted national symposia in Upolu and Savaii where 200 National Council of Women advocates were trained in conducting community conversations. The National Council of Women advocates have since held community conversations in 41 villages, focusing on increasing the participation of women in the 2016 national election and ending violence against women. In total, about 7,000 women, 3,800 men, 4,300 youth and 1,000 children have performed for an audience of about 15,300 women, 9,000 men, 10,700 youth and 9,000 children.
Ms Falenaoti Mulitalo June Kolotita Ailuai led a community conversation in her village, Vavau: ‘The whole village came together. We noticed that no one was at home as every house in the village was empty, and the Malae (meeting place) was packed. Even neighbouring villages came to watch. Conversations were made! The village council [was] in full force, merely as supporters, while the women coordinated, led and implemented all aspects of the program; including the oratory role, which is usually and traditionally reserved for a male chief. It was empowerment in its purest form.’
Monitoring and evaluation of the community conversations showed a change in people’s mindsets about women becoming involved in politics.
In Vavau, there was also a significant attitude change with respect to ending violence against women. ‘As a result of the community conversation process,’ Ms Ailuai explained, ‘I am very proud to announce that the Village Council passed its first bylaw on adopting a zero tolerance on violence. This is a reflection of the power of engaging men in these conversations from the beginning, where they are also thinking about solutions for the protection of the whole village’.
*This activity is part of a larger program.
Project: Partnerships For Health and Rights: Working for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for all in the Pacific
Outcome area: Enhancing agency
Project partners: International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
Total funding: $1,500,000*
Funding timeframe: 2015–2018
The Samoa Family Health Association (SFHA) is Samoa’s leading provider of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services. With support from IPPF, SFHA provided services to more than 10 percent of Samoa’s population in 2015.
SFHA’s mobile unit ensures that services are available not only at its clinic in the capital Apia, but also in the outer islands. The mobile unit visits rural areas three times each week to provide educational and contraceptive services to communities. In 2015, the association delivered 63,818 SRHR services to 14,342 clients, including 5,628 (39 percent) young people. Sixty-three percent (9,103) of SFHA’s clients are poor and marginalised members of the community, including those living below the poverty line.
For the first time, SFHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a private company in 2015. Yazaki Eds Samoa Limited is an automotive supplier plant located in the capital, Apia. The vast majority of workers at the factory are women, most of whom are of reproductive age (15–49). Under the Memorandum of Understanding, SFHA carries out fortnightly visits to the Yazaki factory to provide free health services to workers, in addition to comprehensive SRHR information and education.
SFHA uses the information it collects whilst providing SRHR services to advocate for improvements in legislation on SRHR issues. During the year, SFHA was active in lobbying for the inclusion of SRHR issues in legislation and policies being developed by Samoa’s Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women and Social Development and Ministry of Finance.
The association also contributed positively to the country’s Health Reports, Health Plans, Health Surveys and Human Rights Reports. In July 2016, the Executive Director of SFHA was the NGO representative in the Samoan Government delegation to the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York. Of the 22 countries participating in the National Voluntary Review at the Forum, Samoa was the only Pacific Island Country. Due to SFHA’s involvement in the review process, the Samoan National Voluntary Review specified SRHR as a key priority under the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Samoa.
*This activity is part of a larger program.