Nofotane women’s handiwork off to the overseas market

Some of the Nofotane projects Star Women during the closing of the project two weeks ago

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 08 AUGUST 2018: The Nofotane Empowerment Project for Women may have been closed, but the projects’ success continues with the women who went through it now ready with the third shipment of products they created to leave Samoa for Oregon, the United States at the end of this week.

The Nofotane Empowerment Project was an initiative by the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) for women, and was funded by the UN Women Program that target grassroots women.

According to the SVSG President, Siliniu Lina Chang, this is an exciting time for the women being able to see the fruits of their labour shipped off to international markets. The shipment includes 300 elei materials, handicraft such as bags, fans, tapa (siapo) handbags, mats, and leis.

“The first two shipments went to Australia and New Zealand, and this is the third one going all the way to America,” Siliniu told Talamua.

Siliniu said the supplies is the collective effort from all women who were trained under the Nofotane project using mainly material from around their environment and recycled rejects such as packing materials that have been used to add colour and patterns for mats and baskets.

The distinct red lopa seeds woven into leis that have a market in New Zealand

“We divided the task among all women under the program so everyone gains from this,” said Siliniu.

Also ready to be shipped to Wellington next week are 550 leis made of the red lopa seeds to be used as lanyards in a big conference hosted by New Zealand.

Siliniu believes this is just the beginning of many good and positive things for the women should they continue to develop it.

Despite the program’s success, it however was not spared criticisms and pessimistic reaction over the use of the word Nofotane which is Samoan for a woman married into her husband’s family which has been used in a negative connotation. But the project has seen a positive impact with renewed respect accorded to nofotane with certain villages now banning he use of the word in a negative manner.

“We have seen the success of the Nofotane program and we will continue to look for funds to ensure that the program continues so other women could share in the success now enjoyed by many women,” said Siliniu.

The Nofotane Program was for two years only, and within that time frame, 5000 women participated in it and 500 small businesses were conceived from the program.

From the 500 small businesses, 20 star earners were recognized during the official closing of the Nofotane program two weeks ago.

Siliniu believes this is just the tip of the iceberg for better things to come for many grassroots women.