Samoa’s population is approaching 200,000 and it ranks 104 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index 2015.LII Government efforts towards women’s empowerment are outlined in the Samoa National Policy for Gender Equality (2016–2020).

The Constitution Amendment Act 2013 introduced a 10 per cent quota of women representatives into the national Legislative Assembly. If not enough women are elected to comprise 10 per cent of seats, then new seats are created for the highest polling women candidates until the quota is met. All candidates who stand for political leadership must still have a chiefly title of Matai. In 2015, only seven per cent of Matais were women.LIII In the 2016 elections, four women candidates were elected and a fifth seat was activated under the quota provisions, so there are now five women in a 50-member parliament.

Around 97 per cent of households engage in agricultural activities.LIV Women account for approximately seven per cent of this agricultural activity. There is greater parity in formal employment opportunities, as 43 per cent of the formally employed population are women. In 2013, Samoa passed the Labour and Employment Relations Act that provides for non-discrimination against applicants who are pregnant, mandatory paid maternity leave and equal pay without discrimination based on gender.

The Samoa Family Health and Safety Study in 2006 found that 46 per cent of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced one or more forms of violence.LV The Domestic Violence Act 2013 establishes the legal framework for responding to domestic violence. A Family Violence Court and a Drugs and Alcohol Court have been established to oversee cases regarding all forms of violence in Samoan families related to drugs and alcohol.LVI

In Samoa, the Pacific Women-funded Samoan Women Shaping Development program (SWSPD) is implemented by the Samoan Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development with civil society, government and private sector partners.


Project name: Support to Drug and Alcohol Court Services
Outcome: Ending violence against women
Project Partner: Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration
Total Funding: $40,000
Funding timeframe: 2016–2018

Recognising that alcohol and drug use contributes to violence, the SWSDP is funding a case management officer at the pilot Alcohol and Drugs Court. By partnering on this new court initiative with the Ministry of Justice, Courts and Administration, Pacific Women is helping to reduce incidences of substance abuse and violence against women.

‘Since taking up this role, everyone who’s been in this program has not reoffended’, says Mr Luamanuvae Toma Petelo, Case Management Officer.

‘The support and the contribution from the SWSDP has made this program possible. The significance of this contribution has given our program’s participants a second chance in life.’

Mr Petelo supports substance abusers and perpetrators of gender-based violence to change attitudes and behaviours in relation to their drug and alcohol consumption and use of violence. The aim is for women and children to feel safer and to be treated more fairly and equitably within their families, communities and in public places.

‘I did not realise my drug addiction was really bad until this program,’ explains one participant. ‘Before, I relied heavily on drugs … This program has made me realise that my substance abuse was hurting my family, especially my partner.’

Mr Petelo runs multi-week programs addressing issues including alcohol and drug use, anger management and violence prevention, all delivered in local language.

‘This program has really made me realise what I was doing wrong and how my actions were affecting those around me,’ says another participant. ‘This program has taught me that I am capable of becoming a better person and that I can always make a positive change. I am a father and I need to set a good example for my son. I know that my behaviour will affect those around me, so if I choose well, maybe those who are going through the same problem may follow.’

Mr Petelo confirms that there has been a significant change of attitude towards alcohol, drugs, abuse and violence for the participants.

‘Most participants came to this program more worried about the law, but did not really think about the consequences on their health and spirituality such as the low self-esteem and the self-blaming. This program has helped them understand the impact of their actions not only on themselves [but also] on others.’ 

Project name: Supporting Samoa’s Children Initiative: Children who are Vending
Outcome: Enhancing agency
Project Partner: Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development
Total Funding: $175,000
Funding timeframe: 2016–2017

Noticing a high number of children street vendors, the SWSDP investigated. They discovered the underlying causes leading to children vending were poverty, unemployment of parents, and a lack of income to support large families. SWSDP responded with a project that is helping six families to increase incomes and return children vendors to school.

Ms Salome Suliveta is the mother of 14 children. Through her engagement with the SWSDP project, she received basic entrepreneurial and business management training and was supported to develop a business plan. Then, with a start-up grant, she opened an elei fabric printing business. This has grown and she is now also running a small canteen from her home.

I have always been a hard worker and an independent woman,’ says Ms Suliveta.

‘My only issue was that I did not have the means to show this, as I am a stay at home mum with no qualifications or employment experience. It was a constant struggle to make ends meet due to the lack of finance.’ 

The terms of the grant were agreed between Ms Sulivata and SWSDP in a memorandum of understanding. Tools and resources that Ms Suliveta had identified in her business plan as necessary to start her enterprise were funded through the first disbursement. The final disbursement is subject to Ms Suliveta fulfilling the requirements in the memorandum of understanding.

‘The most important lesson I’ve learnt from this program,’ says Ms Suliveta,

‘is the importance of saving, having a savings account, and budgeting well. This program has really emphasised on these financial aspects, and as well as the importance of separating the business from my personal and everyday needs and family obligations.’ 

As a result of support provided to these six families, 22 children have now returned to school. This includes some who had dropped out as young as eight to help earn income for their families.

‘This program has encouraged and pushed me to do better for myself as a woman and mother. It has given me a sense of pride and satisfaction because my hard work has paid off and I am able to provide for my children and family. I am grateful to this program because it has given me the chance to do something more than just selling basic goods, which is what my children and I have done in the past.’

Small business owner and start-up grant recipient, Mrs Salome Suliveta. Photo: Samoa Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development.