Women from the Safata District participating in the VLDI TOT Training. Photo credit: UNDP Samoa

As the year 2020 rolls on to March, the Women in Leadership in Samoa (WILS) Project continues to enrol more women from the communities to join the pool of more than 100 women that have been trained as trainers based on the Village Leadership Development Initiative’s (VLDI). The VLDI is a contextualized leadership development curriculum, tailor made for Samoan villages and communities that was developed with the aim of building leadership pathways for women by strengthening the leadership knowledge, skills and abilities of established, emerging village and community leaders.

The districts of Salega 1 and 2 together with the districts of Safata and Siumu were fortunate to have had the opportunity to be participating in such a training for the past two weeks. 31 women participated in the training for Salega 1 and 2 districts and 42 women participated in the Safata and Siumu districts training.

“It is a blessing to see young women having the confidence to speak out in front of the older women from their villages. Women leaders encouraged the young women and wives to dialogue together with them and be part of decision making for village development projects during the training”, Peseta Afoa Arasi Tiotio – trainer.

The training brought together community women to discuss challenges and how they will address them. identifying the challenges hindering women’s leadership and working together to create initiatives to break through these barriers to recognize women’s contribution to leadership at the community level as well as strengthening gender equality in Samoa.

To sustain the learning and further support leadership initiatives to achieve gender equality in Samoa, the participants developed Break Through Initiatives (BTIs) to break through the barriers they are facing. The BTIs vary from access to clean drinking water, access to education for school drop-outs, income generating initiatives, awareness programmes on leadership and ending discrimination and violence, women leading development of infrastructures such as women’s committee house, access roads and lighting, revival of traditional crafts such as Ie Sae (finemat) and governance programmes for women and men.

According to one participant, “this training has given me the confidence, the skills to be good leaders who lead with love, lead with values of love, respect, equality and be good role models for others in their communities. I will try my best to ensure that we as mothers, as advisors will resolve the issues currently happening in my village so that the men and women can work together”, participant from Salega.

“I have changed from a high-minded mother, who always speaks harsh words to both my husband and children. After this training, I have changed my approach towards my family, for the first time I have used a low, soft tone when I speak to my family”, participant from Siumu.

“There is no women’s committee in our village. From this training, I together with our fellow participants have agreed to gather all women (young and old) to establish a women’s committee. We value the role women play in a community and we will gather women to form a committee, we will share knowledge learned from this week and work together for community development projects through our BTI”, participant from Safata. Another participant from Safata, started sharing the knowledge learned during their church women’s fellowship gathering for faamati.

During the certificate presentation, women from Safata and Siumu wished the women of the world and Samoa a Happy International Women’s Day 2020, a commemorative day celebrated on 8th March each year. The training was in time for International Women’s Day which celebrates women’s achievement around the world including Samoa.

This training is organised and facilitated by the Women in Leadership in Samoa (WILS) Project, a three-year project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women with funding from the Australian Government in partnership with the Government of Samoa.

The WILS Project acknowledged the partnership with the Ministry of Women, Community & Social Development (MWCSD) in supporting the coordination of this training through the network of the Sui o Nuu and Sui Tamaitai o Nuu. As MWCSD continues to lead the District Development Planning Implementation with the overall goal of communities leading community development and the WILS project intends to support leadership initiatives identified by the districts in their District Development Plans. Women’s participation and leadership at the local level, need to be recognized and supported to promote gender equality.

This is the second of a series of trainings that will be happening in the coming months in which there will be more opportunities for other community women who are involved in the design and implementation of their District Development Plans being implemented through the MWCSD.

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