Samoan Women contribution in Police work honoured during International Women’s Day

Lagi Keresoma

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Samoan Women Police officers today make up 25% of the police force leading the police parade as part of the celebration of the International Women’s Day Friday 8 March 2019

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 11 MARCH 2019: The celebration of the International Women’s Day Friday 8 March coincided with the celebration of 50 years since the first women were admitted to the Samoa Police Force.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa acknowledged the contribution of women in law enforcement especially the 7 original Samoan women who paved the way for others to follow.

“Policing is indeed tough and it requires those with determination, dedication and the willingness to carry out the mandatory functions of the police force, and  are called up when there is a breach to the peace of Samoa,” said Fiamē.

“Our people expect professionalism, courtesy and respect,” she said.

“Our nature in our decision making, priorities and opportunities to make a difference as women, make us unique and I urge that you continue with the significant progress in advancing gender equality, empowering women and supporting each other as equal partners who are ready, willing and able to expand your policing skills and abilities,” said Fiame.

“Women are able to help steer your vision so that the Samoa Police Service remains a trustworthy organization that is relied upon by the community, our Government leaders, the diplomatic corps and especially the people of Samoa.”

She also commended Police Commissioner Fuiavailili Egon Keil for his support.

Sisters In Blue
“This celebration of the International Womens Day is an annual event bringing the world together despite different cultures to celebrate and recognize women, and highlight their remarkable contribution and achievements and also to remind us all of discrimination exacted  against  women  all across the world,” said Fuiavailili.

On the theme of the day Balance For Better, Fuiavailili said women deserve equal treatment, equal participation and equal opportunity.

“As a strong advocate of equality in the workplace, I see people for who they are, value their commitment and loyalty, their critical thinking, and I respect gender equality.”

“As we celebrate women, we must also try to image what it was like back in the year 1969 when the first women were admitted into the service,” said Fuiavailili.

The first women police officers were Katalina Ieremia-Sefelino, Tavu’i Annie Laumea, Shirley Theresa Fruean-Talamaivao, Theresa Stowers-Taefu, Mele Vae’au Garner, Mary McFall-Pavitt and Anastacia Carolyn Schmidt.

Some of the current crop of women police officers

Four have passed on and three are still active in the community and they were all honoured with awards and certificates to mark their contribution to Samoa.

At the time of their admittance, the Police Commissioner was Alphonso Philip and the Prime Minister was Fiame Mata’afa Mulinu’u 11 who was Fiamē Naomi’s father.

“These men were visionary themselves and I’m sure there was a lively debate on this issue back then, nevertheless, they took a chance and were proven correct, that women too have a place in law enforcement,” said Fuiavailili.

Today 25% (169) are female police and some of them hold positions of influence including positions never before taken by women officers in Maritime, K9 and Tactical Operational Section (TOS).

Fuiavailili is confident that these women attained these positions not because of their gender, but through a proper support systems, determination, hard work and on merit.

“To the seven original police women, your contribution have not gone unnoticed or done in vain, but were distinguished achievements and are still recognized and alive today,” said Fuiavailili.

“All the women officers that came after you, love and respect you for what each of you have done  in paving the way for them to follow. I am certain your years in the service in the beginning back then were not easy but you have demonstrated that tenacity and your perseverance has paid off, and you have made it to the history book of the Samoan police.”

He challenged the police women to strive for the best in their positions, open to changes, challenge themselves and, stand up for what is rightfully theirs.

His vision was to see a woman Police Commissioner and was not surprised if that happened sooner than expected.

One of the surviving pioneering seven women police officers, Tavu’i Annie Laumea, HE Sara Moriarty, Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil and Deputy Commissioner, Papalii Monalisa Keti.

Currently the Deputy Police Commissioner is a woman, Papalii Monalisa Tiai Keti.

Before the celebration a Taumeasina Island Resort, all police women in the force marched proudly down Beach Road to raise the Samoan flag in front of the Police Station in Apia.

Other than the police celebration, there were other events held to mark the International Womens Day such as the UN community program with the Leauva’a village women, the Ministry of Women village mayor celebration, the Samoa Victim Support Group Nofotane market day and the  informal sharing amongst women initiated by the Australian High Commissioner HE Sara Moriaty.