Summer program focuses on empowerment for women
A special program to empower American Samoan women’s effective participation and contribution to the development of families and local village communities was one of the main initiatives of the American Samoa Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence (ASCADSV) held at its main office, located at Tolu Street, in Tafuna — across from Pala Lagoon-Lions Park.
ASCADSV is an organization premised to advocate women’s rights from every sphere of life. Its sole aim is to cater for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, children, and for any other woman that needs developmental assistance.
One of the community service programs hosted by ASCADSV this year was its Summer Project, which involved Agricultural Hydroponics and Learning English as a Second Language.
This is the second year of this same project, and was arranged into two main sessions. The first session spanned from June 13 to July 1, 2016 and a total of thirteen women participated in it. The second session commenced on July 25 and ended on August 12, 2016, with a total of fifteen women participants.
Holistically, the program serviced 28 women in their journey to seek and acquire empowerment in community services.
The Summer Project was done under the direction of Executive Director, Matautia Liliu Mailo-Tapuai and assisted by Project Manager, Lologa Olo.
According to the executive director, some women of the previous year’s program have already found employment due to this potential initiative.
Special guests from OVW’s (Office on Violence Against Women) —from the US Department of Justice, Sharon Elliot and Judy Benitez — conducted a site visit this year. They were able to share with the participants the importance of ASCADASV’s commitment to empowering women in the local community.
At the end of each three-week session, there was an award ceremony to acknowledge the achievements of the participants.
Invited guest speakers to each ceremony included Falefata Moli Taai Lemana (for the first session) and Charlene Fa’alevao (second session) from the Department of Commerce, who addressed the milestones achieved by the women.
In attendance also were ASCADASV Board members — Chairperson Rev. Tafailematagi Muasau, Sulita Smith (Catholic Social Service) and Rev. Dr Ama’amalele Tofaeono (Kanana Fou Theological Seminary) — instructors, ASCADASV’s project partners, and families and friends of the participants.
The women were awarded with certificates of the course completion. In turn, they presented gifts to the instructors as a token of their appreciation for the learning they received throughout the project. In conclusion, they all feasted to celebrate the momentous occasion.
The project was a complete success and ASCADSV wishes to acknowledge the sponsorship and contribution of local businesses to our cause namely in the form of:
- monetary assistance from Papali’i Lauli’i Alofa – Owner of Paramount Builders;
- donated lumber / plywood and drill bits from Ace Hardware & Co.
- donated plants and site visits from the Department of Agriculture; and
- Personnel professional assistance from the American Samoa Land Grant
“We highly appreciate your valuable contribution to ASCADSV’s Project,” the Executive Director Mailo-Tapuai said. “Fa’afetai lava! Ia fa’aoloaina pea e le Atua lo outou soifua tautua ia Amerika Samoa ma ona tagata. “
For all the women that participated in the program, agricultural hydroponics was a foreign concept.
Agricultural Hydroponics is a new method of vegetable gardening in which vegetables are grown in wooden beds of water. Under the supervision of Dr. Ian Gurr from the Am. Samoa Land Grant, and with the assistance of Ropeti Sua, the participants were able to grow green vegetables such as bok-choy, lettuce, and Chinese cabbage on ASCADSV grounds.
The participants were also given the opportunity to visit Avegalio’s Farm, Larry Hirata’s Hydrogarden, and Tutuila Greens Hydrogarden (Ian Gurrs’ farm) to see for themselves the long term benefits of hydroponics as a form of gardening.
These three farms are the current fresh vegetable suppliers for local businesses such as Forsgren, Sub Your Way, Cost U Less, and Tropical Plants. In turn, the visits also promoted healthy eating for families and hydroponic gardening as an alternative and an instant source of income.
English as a Second Language
The Summer Project also catered to the interests of women lacking in basic literacy skills. For this need, ASCADSV hired English Secondary School Teachers, Ms Brenda Coffin Aisoli and Ms Charis Fa’alogo with the voluntary assistance of Florrie Mailo.
The participants were taught basic computer skills, namely writing letters and resumes for employment purposes. They were also taught basic English reading and writing skills through poems, and verbal sharing in class to help them build their confidence and self-esteem in learning English as a Second Language.
The participants showed an eagerness to learn, as there is still a struggle among older Samoan women to learn English at a late stage in life.
Healthy eating and life style was also an aspect of the Project, which was conducted by Angel Suani (owner of Le Hunza Wellness Center). Participants were taught to cook healthy meals and basic massaging skills, in an effort to promote healthy eating and lifestyle in families.