To make Samoa a society based on equity and justice is the responsibility of everyone including leaders of communities, villages , church and government. This social transformation of our society can be done through personal transformation.
This is the message that is being delivered in a week long training on transformational leadership targeting women leaders of villages and NGOs and also men by the trainer Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo . The training is part of the transformational leadership programme which “ basically looks at supporting and encouraging and giving more opportunity for the women to have skills and knowledge and the confidence and the ability to be able to take up opportunities to be part of the decision making in whatever spaces that they have access to whether in churches or villages or districts or at the national level.”
Men are not excluded from this programme because Fuimapoao said“ we cannot do the work to have more women accessing spaces for leadership and be part of the decision making if we are not engaging men who are usually the holders of power and authority in many of our levels of governance.”
She added that before anyone can go out and make changes in the village or society personal transformation is needed.
“ Personal transformation is required first before you can go out and change something in your village or in society. Personal transformation is where we start with a movement towards social transformation and all of us needed to do this work together.” She argues that if only a number of people or women only are working on this process then no changes can be made.
We must also be clear of our values Fuimapoao said. These are values of selflessness and kindness. “ If what we are saying is not aligned to what we’re doing, then we won’t have credibility for the leaders for a Samoa that is beneficial for everybody.”
Beliefs and mindsets must change but this can be difficult but not impossible Fuimapoao explained.
These mindsets and beliefs are about relationships between men and women and in relativity in that a lot of beliefs are seen to be based on cultural beliefs and spiritual beliefs and to change a person who has strong biblical and cultural beliefs is very hard to do Fuimapoao said.
“ It is intergenerational work. So we may not see the full fruition in our lifetime but the hope is that you keep chipping away and maybe our daughters will be fully benefit from a society that is truly open up open up opportunities for both sons and daughters.”
She pointed out that the leadership in the government and the church need to send out the same clear message that men and women are equal and women deserve to be safe in their families and there is no absolute place for violence against women or child or anybody.
“ The message is always powerful especially when it comes from the top of the leadership chain because we listen to and respect our leaders.”
She said that women in Samoa culturally had always had higher standing and status but “we also realise that overtime our reality has perhaps not being as aligned to what we would like our ideal Samoan cultural society and the status of our women to be. I’m talking about holding women in high regard.”
“ 60% of our mothers are not safe in their homes and are the victims of domestic violence. That’s a fact. 49% of the population are women yet only 10% are matai. 5% of these women are actually part of the decision making in their village councils.”
Women she said unfortunately will continue to die from domestic violence and children will continue to be left without mothers ‘
Fuimapoao is optimistic that if everyone is one in spirit as Samoa did in the Pacific Games and be passionately involved the goal for a better Samoa can be achieved.