Fautasi o Toa. Photo credit: UNDP Samoa

Apia, Samoa – The Fautasi o Toa crew will be rowing their way into the history books at the end of this week, when they become the first ever all-women’s crew for a fautasi or traditional longboat.

Translated as the Longboat of Legends, the Fautasi o Toa brings together women of different ages and backgrounds who want to be part of an age old tradition, and to be a fautasi rower. That passion is now combined with a powerful message of shining the spotlight on violence against women and building women champions. The vessel used to get that message across – the fautasi, which literally translates to build as one.

The All Women’s crew will go up against men’s teams in this Friday’s fautasi race which was birthed out of a challenge to the legendary Master Skipper, Vaimasanu’u Zita Martel, by the Marist Old Boys Association as part of their 70th year celebrations.

It will be the first time such a race will take place.

The United Nations Development Programme’s COVID-19 Response & Recovery Project, and the United Nations and European Union’s Spotlight Initiative – in response to the surge in domestic violence cases during this COVID-19 period – have partnered with the Zita Martel Fautasi Legacy to make this race happen.

Says Zita Martel; “I chose the name “Fautasi o Toa”, or the Longboat of Legends, because it is an empowering name. It clearly states that this longboat team is made up of legendary women, of women champions, of women who are scared but doing it anyway, of women who are fiercely protective of their own. The team love the name. Because it drives them to excel to becoming a courageous Lady Toa”.

This is part of an outreach and awareness campaign to highlight the issue of violence against women and children and building women champions.

It also coincides with the onset of the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Campaign which promotes zero tolerance for violence against women and children, from November 25th to December 10th.

The Fautasi o Toa Challenge hits right at the heart of this global campaign.

“This is an excellent example of using traditional sports as a vehicle to address the issue of domestic violence – which saw a concerning spike during the COVID-19 lockdown period – and gender biases that continue to discriminate against and prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential,” said UNDP Resident Representative, Jorn Sorensen.

“The fact that the longboat is made up entirely of women, and captained by a champion female skipper, and competing with the men in the same competition under the same rules, sends a strong message that women’s equal participation, and levelling the playing field for both men and women, is very much possible.”

The Fautasi o Toa will be launched at an event to be held at the Apia Black Sand Beach, infront of the Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Hotel on Tuesday, November 3rd 2020, at 1pm.

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Samoa (Multi-country Office) 
Go to UNDP Global