Women contesting the General Elections in March are in a better position to do so after a two-day training held at the Moanalisa Hotel.
Organised by the Samoa Ala Mai Group, the Prospective Women Candidates Workshop benefitted from the wisdom of speakers including New Zealand Labour M.P., Su’a William Sio and the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Fepulea’i Attila Ropati and others.
The Chair of Samoa Ala Mai, Lemalu Nele Leilua, said the training was an opportunity to enhance candidates’ understanding of issues – including gender-based issues.
According to Lemalu, 19 female candidates have registered for the elections so far. The number could increase by the time nominations close in February.
In the meantime, Lemalu said Samoa Ala Mai is all about changing mindsets about having more women in Parliament. “We have quite a number of supporters right now compared to when we first started. When we first started, we saw that there was a lot of support from the villages in Savai’i,” said Lemalu. “They looked past the negative mentality that a woman’s place is at home and that a woman’s job is to look after the children and stood up to support the female candidates.”
It is something Lemalu admires.
“As our programme continues, we’ve seen a lot of support from men not only from Savai’i but also from all around Samoa, which is great.
“We have a radio live talk back show, and from there, we could tell that there are a lot of people supporting the idea that we should have more women in Parliament.”
The young people are also coming on board, she said.
“If we educate our youth now, and teach them about equal rights and equal opportunities, they will become effective leaders in the future.”
But the biggest change is that women themselves are starting to be more confident and believe in their abilities.
“They are now learning about equal rights,” said Lemalu. “Women are now aware of their rights and they are standing up for their own rights.” Samoa Ala Mai will hold a similar training next month where they have invited American Samoa Congresswoman, Aumua Amata Coleman, to be the keynote speaker.
“The reason why we invited her was because she started running for the elections when she was young and she didn’t stop until she reached the top.” Lemalu says such success stories should be emulated and followed.