December 2004
 This report was prepared by PPSEAWA: (Women for Peace, Understanding and
      Advancement), Inclusion International (Disability and Human rights),
        National Council of Women (NCW) and members of Civil Society.

       in consultation with the following NGOS (listed in alphabetical order)

                      Avanoa Tutusa: Human rights and equal opportunities
                      Catholic Women’s Association: Women’s Advancement
                                      Doctor’s Wives Association
                Faasao Savaii Society: Environmental Protection for Savaii Island
                                 Faataua Le Ola: Suicide Awareness
                         International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)
            Komiti Tumama: Samoa Women’s Committee Development Organisation
                                 Lafitaga Trust: Poverty Alleviation
             Loto Taumafai Society for the Disabled: Disability Advocacy, Service and
            Inailau Women Leadership Network : Women in decision making
                     NCECE –National Council of Early Childhood Education
             Nuanua o le Alofa National council for People with Disabilities: Disability
                         Mapusaga o Aiga MOA: Violence against Women
                              Rotaract: Young Business People’s group
                     SAME: Samoa Association of Manufacturing Enterprises
                                  Samoa Family Health Association
            Society for the Intellectually Handicapped: Disability Educational Provider
                                 Soroptimist International of Samoa.
                          South Pacific Business Development Foundation
                                   Traditional Healers Association
               Women in business development Inc: Rural development and income

 The Samoa Umbrella for Non-government organizations (SUNGO) acted as the focal point for the
                                coordination of this report.

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                    ii

This report has been prepared through consultation with the NGOs listed in the first
section. This process of widespread consultation has not only increased NGO awareness
of CEDAW and the role of NGOs in implementing CEDAW, it has also strengthened the
relationship between civil society groups considerably. The report aims to provide a
balance to and complement the state CEDAW report, through presenting an in depth
analysis of what NGOs consider to be the critical issues in their respective NGO fields of
expertise. NGOs have also given priority to ensuring the voices of women are heard in this
report, especially the concerns of women who are not usually included in decision-making
forums, such as rural women, young women, women with disabilities and aged and elderly

The critical issues for women and girls identified by NGOs, and which are outlined in this
report are:

    •   Legislative reform and national policies,
    •   Political participation and decision making,
    •   Violence against women and girls,
    •   Equality for women in rural settings,
    •   Equality as a human right for women with disability,
    •   Access to education and training.

Central to addressing all these issues, is the need for training to increase women and girls’
understanding of how legislative and judicial processes work and how women and girls
can intervene in these processes so as to promote women’s economic, social and political
advancement. Increased understanding of the CEDAW goals and processes by political,
judicial, legal, management and community leaders is also a key step in this process

NGOs stress that Samoa’s progress in realizing the CEDAW goals will continue to be
influenced by a) cultural beliefs about women’s place, and the way these traditions have
been translated into modern government and political systems e.g. the practice of matai
suffrage and issues relating to women’s access to land b) the effects of Samoa’s economic
vulnerability in an increasingly globalised economy. While Samoa is politically stable and
has a strong growing economy, like other small island states Samoa’s’ semi-subsistence
economy is vulnerable to adverse market trends. NGOs recognize the fragility of Samoa’s
economic situation and note that women and children are the groups which have been most
affected by the effects of economic downturns. Anecdotal reports indicate increases in the
number of urban and rural families experiencing cash poverty today; unemployment and
underemployment; school drop out rates; people living in overcrowded and sub-standard
housing; incidences of diseases of poverty and, reported cases of physical abuse of women
and children. Strategies to implement CEDAW will require actions at both social and
structural levels.

In presenting this report, Samoa’s NGOs reemphasize their commitment to the shared goal
of eliminating discrimination against women in Samoa. NGOs aim is to promote an
enabling environment to forward the CEDAW goals, through clarifying what are the roles
of government in implementing CEDAW and what are the roles of the NGO partners in
this endeavor. Also, NGOs believe that the CEDAW goals can be achieved through
defining and strengthening the functions of the CEDAW partnership presently operating
under the auspices of the MWCD.

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                    iii
Since 1991, the government has put in place several structures to support the
implementation of CEDAW, including:

    The establishment of a Ministry of Women (1991) with the expectation that this
    Ministry would focus on policy level operation, including the preparation of a National
    Women’s Policy. (Note: in 2003 the Ministry of Women was incorporated into a
    Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development).

    A CEDAW partnership where selected NGOs work with government staff on CEDAW
    issues. This is in accordance with the governance agenda and the Samoa Government
    priority to `partnerships in development’.

    And related, in its national plans of action, the Ministry has identified several
    `partnerships with NGOS’ e.g. the Women in Business Foundation (WIBF) has been
    designated as the lead agency in issues relating to women’s economic advancement;
    the Mapusaga O Aiga (MOA) is the lead agency for domestic violence, the National
    Council of Women (NCW) is the lead agency for issues relating to women’s political
    advancement and Komiti Tumama is the leading agency for health in rural areas.

The NGOs acknowledge the importance of these measures but have concerns about their
effectiveness. For example, Samoa does not have a Women’s Policy, nor has there been
significant progress in policy level interventions to support CEDAW goals. This is largely
because the Women’s Ministry has given inadequate attention to policy level interventions
but has tended to focus more on programmes. NGOs strongly believe the delay in adopting
a National Women’s Policy has severely restricted all areas of reform aimed at
eliminating discrimination against women. There is real urgency for the Ministry to focus
on policy level interventions and training for women to operate at this level.

Second, while NGOs strongly support the need for a formal national body, - such as the
CEDAW partnership - to monitor the implementation of CEDAW, the terms of reference
of the CEDAW partnership need to be re defined through broad consultation and
negotiation with NGOS

Third, there is serious debate about the quality of the partnership relationship of
government with NGOS. The widely held perception is that rather than partnerships with
NGOs, the government has tended to take over programmes formerly run by women’s
NGOs. Examples include - the National Plan of Action for the Convention on Child
Protection (previously MOA) and the Healthy Village program (previously the Komiti
Tumama). This has lead to a weakening of some women’s NGOs due to a lack of funding,
and some duplication of government and NGO efforts as well.

Since 2003, Samoa has experienced a unique situation in that a portfolio for NGOs has
been created, and this is located under the auspices of the Prime Minister. This situation
gives NGOs direct access to an open forum with the Prime Minister, which is very
positive. At the same time, NGOs hope that this relationship will not adversely influence
the NGO role as monitor and watchdog of government processes.

To conclude, there is urgency in the NGO community and government redefining their
roles in the implementation of CEDAW, and putting in place agreed-to systems for
working together to achieve the CEDAW goals

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                  iv

Summary                                                (iii)

Contents                                               (v)

Part 1

Introduction                                             1

Part 2

CEDAW Articles

Article 1:   A definition of discrimination              1

Article 2:   Obligations to eliminate discrimination     2

Article 3:   Advancement of women at all levels          5

Article 5:   Sex Role and Stereotyping                   5

Article 6:   Suppression of prostitution                 6

Article 7:   Women in public and political life          6

Article 8:   Women at international level                7

Article 10: Women and education                           8

Article 11: Employment                                    9

Article 12: Women and healthcare                          9

Article 14: Women in rural areas                         13

Conclusion                                              16

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                   v

We feel that the government has adequately introduced the Samoan context in their report. We highlight
that while Samoa is politically stable and has a strong growing economy it is vulnerable as any other small
island state is vulnerable to adverse market trends. We recognize the fragility of our economic situation and
emphasize such trends are felt most by women as a vulnerable group.


The Constitution of Samoa 1960,article 15 (1) of the Constitution states that men and women are equal
before the law and there is to be no discrimination on the basis of descent, language, race, sex, political
opinion, and origin, place of birth or family status or religion.

Furthermore, article 15 (2) states that any legislation for the advancement of women, children or any
persons who are “socially or educationally retarded” shall not be considered discriminatory. The wording
of this provision should be amended to refer to persons who are “mentally or educationally retarded” as
persons with disabilities. The current wording accepts that women of Samoa are not to be disadvantaged. It
does not reflect the high status enjoyed by the women of women within the Samoan culture.

A legislative review (1993) by the Attorney General’s office found that legislation was in favour of women
but failed to define the following existing gaps:

•   No laws against domestic violence – women must rely on the criminal law and lodge a complaint for
    assault or abuse. Non molestation orders are not contained in any legislation to date.

•   No specific laws protecting women from sexual harassment and discrimination within the workplace.
    The Public Service Act 2001 legislates against coercion and harassment within the workplace but as
    yet, no clear policies against sexual harassment and discrimination against women or men within the
    work environment have been developed.

•   Matrimonial Property legislation is nonexistent. Women need to rely on common law and precedent
    from local cases.

•   Abortion remains illegal. However during a recent case the Chief Justice that recommended that
    abortion services be provided and that Parliament amend the abortion law (1961) along the lines
    adopted in New Zealand in 1997

•   Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act 1961 is still based on the fault system where the petitioner in a
    divorce has to prove the s/he has suffered 3 years of cruelty, desertion or separation. This implies that
    a woman has to endure cruelty for 3 years, whereas any instance of cruelty, violence or abuse should
    not be tolerated. Divorce should be based on a separation period of at least 2 years with neither party
    having to carry a burden of proof regarding fault. More often women are disadvantaged under the
    current law.

•   There is no formal established Family Court to deal with matters of domestic violence, maintenance
    and family issues in a setting that is not adversarial and less intimidating for women and their families.
    It is noted however that the senior District Court judge has established one day of the week specifically
    for family and maintenance matters that has alleviated some of the trauma of these matters being dealt
    with in open Court.

The lack of appropriate specific definition of discrimination through the Samoan constitution, laws and
policies has resulted in a state of “limbo” in which any strategies to prevent discrimination at this level has

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                                 1
been difficult. Though the Samoan government has legislated for the establishment of a Law Reform
Commission to promote the reform of laws, no appointment has been made to date.

    Recommended measures

    We call on the government to expand the definition of discrimination in the Samoan Constitution
    and domestic legislation in accordance with the definition of discrimination in CEDAW i.e. any
    distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of
    impairing or mollifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, of human rights and
    fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

    We urge the government to review and amend the Constitution 15(2) to state that “any legislation for
    the advancement of women, children or persons with disabilities shall not be discriminatory”.

    We call on the government as a matter of priority to initiate the drafting of legislation or incorporation
    into current legislation, of laws and policies:

    •    To prohibit domestic violence,
    •    To prohibit sexual harassment and discrimination,
    •    To promote equal employment opportunities for women,
    •    To amend the abortion law in section 73A of the Crimes Ordinance 1961,
    •    To promote a more equitable Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act,
    •    For the equal division of matrimonial property and
    •    To establish a Family Court.

    It is now timely for women NGO groups to mobilize and lobby government to appoint a Law Reform

Implementation of CEDAW

There are no specific laws, regulations or policies that regulate the conduct of official institutions, public
authorities and public officials toward women. Any such laws need to extend to private persons,
organizations and enterprises.

There has been no attempt through legislation or other programmes to modify customs and practices in
villages that prohibit the bestowal of ‘matai’ chiefly titles on women on the basis that the customary laws
of Samoa are protected by the Constitution. No comprehensive study has yet been undertaken to assess the
discriminatory implications of Samoa’s laws in terms of the obligations and compliance with provisions of

In Samoa, we tend to begin with the premise that women of Samoa have a high cultural status, there is the
danger of women becoming ‘complacent’ about their situation and therefore less likely to accept that there
are in fact, areas that women of Samoa have not overcome discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes and that
they continue to experience discrimination. Practical obstacles that prevent women from attaining their full
development are attributable to a lack of awareness of gender issues and the issue of discrimination against
women. The fact remains that a minority of women hold decision-making and political power in their own

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                                 2
Gender based violence and Legal Aid

The issue of violence is urgent, especially in rural areas where anecdotal reports and research indicate most
incidences remain unreported. When Mapusaga o Aiga (NGO dealing with domestic violence) was
incorporated in August 1993, as first priority it completed research, on domestic and sexual violence
against women in Samoa. The findings of this research were presented at a National Symposium conducted
in conjunction with the Ministry of Women’s Affair in March 1996 s. 1

Key findings from the research are listed below:

    •    Of the 257 women surveyed 28% stated that they had been/are victims of violence and 70% of
         victims were aged between 15- 24.,

    •    70% of acts of violence were domestic. Victims of domestic violence mentioned husbands as the

    •    Only 3% of victims reported violence to the police.

A wide section of Samoan society participated in discussing these findings and recommended law reform to
‘protect victims’ of violence and to criminalise rape in marriage. The group also noted that the existing law
tended to favour the offender.2

The lack of quality supportive systems and services available within remote and isolated villages intensifies
the situation of women who experience acts of violence. Listed below are areas of concern with the systems
and services currently available:

     •    There are no laws against domestic violence or gender-based violence – women must rely on
          provisions of the criminal law to lodge a complaint for assault or abuse by the spouse.

     •    There are no existing facilities to ensure confidentiality when traumatized victims are reporting
          incidents, examined or counseled. The justice system has not appointed a Medical Officer/s,
          supportive staff or counselors specifically trained and interested in dealing with women and
          children as victims of rape, incest or violence. Mapusaga o Aiga is at the forefront of advocating
          for legislative reform, awareness and sensitivity training programs and provision of support for
          victims of violence.

     •    Often penalties imposed by the Courts are minimal and inconsistently applied

     •    There is no public defender for women victims and if a woman does not have the capacity to hire
          a lawyer she has to rely on the police appointed prosecutor who has no formal legal training or

     •    In cases of carnal knowledge and sexual offences women still viewed by some legal profession
          and judges as being a “seductress” who has brought the abuse upon herself.

     •    Police generally give domestic violence cases low priority and will drop charges against a
          perpetrator if he reconciles with his spouse. A “no drop policy” needs to be promoted.

 Mapusaga o Aiga, (1996) A Study of Domestic and Sexual Violence in women in Western Samoa.
 “Domestic and Sexual Violence Against women and Children in Western Samoa” March 1996, National
Symposium IRETA Centre, USP Campus Alafua, Samoa.

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                               3
     •   At present when repeat offenders reappear in court their prior record of violence related acts or
         crimes are not considered. In the matter of safety for the victims, the current practice is to detain
         the perpetrator overnight and then release him. This puts the victim at risk of repeat violence.
     •   Non-molestation orders are not contained in any legislation to date. It is common for cases to be
         dismissed from court because of the lack of evidence or the wife withdrawing her complaint,
         resulting in perpetrator returning to the community and repeat offending.

     •    Delayed responses from the police to reported incidences of violence have resulted in families of
         victims retaliating with further violence to the perpetrator.

     •   Women victims of violence report that they feel uncomfortable reporting abuse to policemen,
         especially policemen who have no training in dealing with these issues. The police force
         currently has a gender imbalance in the staff appointed to deal with the reporting of sensitive acts
         of violence against women.

     •    Perpetrators are given sentences that take into account the nature of the crime, however little
         consideration is given to any psychological impacts of the crime on the victim or the victim’s

     •   No rehabilitative programs for victims and perpetrators to provide counseling and appropriate
         programs to help victims rebuild their self esteem and for perpetrators so they do not reoffend.

     •   Anecdotal reports indicate that women feel the office of the Ombudsman has not operated as
         effectively as anticipated in dealing with women’s complaints regarding violations of women’s
         rights. Women NGOs believed that issues relating to the violations of women’s rights might be
         more objectively addressed through the formation of an agency such as a Human Rights

     •   Many key professionals such as health care workers, parliamentarians, judges, members of the
         legal profession and community leaders have limited knowledge of CEDAW.

Women and Land Ownership

While almost 90% of land in Samoa is held in customary tenure, recent government measures have
increased the availability of freehold land. Anecdotal reports indicate that women do not have the same
access as men to the political process and ownership of freehold property. For example, women have less
understanding of the legal procedures that are required to become a joint owner of land with their spouse
and there are many cases where men purchasing freehold land do not registered their spouses as joint
owners. There are also cases where the husbands of women who are not employed, do not believe that
their wives “deserve” to be the joint owners of land. Women need awareness raising programs focussing
on legal procedures and formal documentation for joint ownership of property are vital.

Legal processes are also necessary to ensure that women’s rights to land are not discriminated against
should the marriage be dissolved.

Recommended Measures:

We strongly urge the Government to allocate funding to the Division for Women (Ministry of Women, and
Community and Social Development) to enable them to appoint a legal advisor/ gender specialist whose
main focus will be on CEDAW and state obligations to CEDAW.

We strongly urge government to review and strengthen non-discriminatory laws and procedures for victims
of violence. This would include the provision of facilities to ensure the sensitive treatment and

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                                4
rehabilitation of female victims of abuse and domestic violence. The promotion of legal literacy training
for women and girls so that they are aware of their rights and legal processes is also recommended.

We recommend that government work in collaboration with NGOs to prioritise the training of key
professionals, parliamentarians, judges, lawyers and health care providers with regards to CEDAW and the
obligations of ratification.

We urge government to establish an autonomous body, such as Human Rights Commission, to address
complaints of violations of women’s rights.

National Policies

The ministry of women has struggled to be the proactive body in promoting policy level actions to
support the elimination of discrimination against women. Samoa does not have a Women’s Policy,
nor has there been significant progress in any policy level interventions to support CEDAW goals.
NGOs strongly believe that the delay in adopting a National Women’s Policy has severely restricted
all areas of reform to eliminate discrimination against women. There is urgency in the ministry
focusing on policy level interventions.

Briefly, the government recommended that the draft National Policy for Women (2001 – 2004) be
reviewed. The review of this policy in consultation with NGOs is crucial and will “provide direction for the
work of the Ministry”. Second, many Ministries do not have gender sensitive policies as part of their
corporate plans. Gender audits are needed to review corporate plans and encourage all ministries to develop
gender sensitive policies in all aspects of their work. Third, the Division of Women has a key role to play in
promoting all national policies which impact on women and girls. For example, the Population Policy
(1998) tabled in Cabinet several years ago has not been adopted, the National Food and Nutrition Policy
has been adopted but not implemented and the development of national policy on Infant and Young Child
Feeding has been widely discussed, but has not been nationally adopted.

Recommended Measures:

We call upon the ministry of women to give priority to preparing a national women’s policy for
government endorsement. The national policy should be prepared through consultation with women’s
NGOs of Samoa. This will provide Government with the mandate for the advancement of women and
particularly women’s involvement in the political process and decision-making.

We also urge the Government of Samoa and the ministry of women to give priority to introducing gender
sensitive policies in all Ministries and Corporations and in all National Development plans and strategies.

There have been several recent Court decisions that affirm the Constitution as the Supreme law where there
is a conflict between culture and the Constitution.

There are certain villages that ban women from holding matai titles. To date, no one has challenged this
constraint before the Courts, although it is clearly unconstitutional.

To often the traditional high status of women in the “Faasamoa” is generalised as the experience of all
women. However the reality for many women is that they are restricted according to the status of their
spouse. The anecdotal records of experiences of women choosing to act outside the culture indicate that
they have little protection and minimal if any access to the usual family and cultural support systems.

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                                5
Recommended measures:

We strongly urge government to develop a policy and monitoring procedure aimed at reviewing any
conflicts between cultural practices and constitutional rights with the purpose of reducing any
discriminatory cultural practices.

No study has been undertaken regarding the exploitation of women through prostitution and trafficking.
While women involved in prostitution are an invisible group, prostitution has become a growing concern in
Samoa.. The media reported trafficking of women to American Samoa in 2002 and 2003. The extent of the
activity was never investigated and has been largely eliminated by cooperation between the authorities in
both countries.

  Recommended measures:

  Research must be undertaken to ascertain the extent of female and male prostitution (including child
  prostitution) within the country. The research should investigate and identify the risks their activities may
  pose to themselves and to the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV/AIDS.

Cultural Influence

Samoan social and customary attitudes about women’s place are the major factors influencing women and
girls’ participation in political and public life. These influence public perceptions about nominating women
to leadership roles, as in government and national boards and at the same time affect women and girls
aspirations for leadership roles as well as their confidence.

Education and training measures to challenge the prevailing social attitudes about women and decision-
making are necessary. At the same time these must be supported by affirmative actions by government to
address any structural changes needed e.g. while universal suffrage was achieved in 1991, the rule that only
matai can stand for parliament prevails. While both male and female have the right to be matai, it is more
usual for males to be offered this role and for female family members to defer to their brothers taking this
role. As a result there are fewer women matai and so, fewer women eligible to stand for parliament, fewer
women in parliament (3) – a situation which perpetuates the view that women have no place in political or
public life. A common response has been that more women should take matai titles. However, in a
significant number of villages there are rules that only males can be matai. This is unconstitutional and also
not in accordance to traditional Samoan custom.

Public life

Samoan women are using their educational achievements to gain leadership and management roles, as
evidenced in government ministries and corporations. However, women are vastly under-represented in
government, in nominated decisions making bodies (such as national boards and commissions) and in
church decision-making forums. In villages, women’s main avenues for decision-making are the women’s
committees and women’s church fellowship groups . In essence, women continue to be the supporters,
organizers for male decision-makers and in political life the campaign managers for male candidates.
Generally speaking, there is less understanding of the principle of accountability in government that,
leaders have a responsibility to the people who place them in government.

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                                 6
Political life

Currently no political party has a gender sensitive manifesto or quota to provide for its support of women
candidates to run from “safe” seats. There is little promotion of women as potential candidates for election
to parliament and no established programmes or initiatives to assist women in political endeavours. The
following list highlights the barriers that limit women’s participation in political parties:

                  Putting welfare of family first
                  Lack of independent financial means
                  Lack of support from spouse
                  Attitude that politics is “dirty” and should be played by men
                  Attitude that Parliament and decision making is a ‘man’s domain’
                  Not eligible because woman does not hold a ‘matai’ chiefly title
                  Low self esteem amongst women themselves
                  NO support from women themselves
                  Women matai feel inferior when sitting with men matai in all levels of decision making.

Affirmative Action

Women have different talents, skills and experiences. It is vital that women’s knowledge and concerns are
taken into account in decision-making forums, especially the concerns of women not usually included, such
as rural women. Affirmative actions at national, community and family life are needed to address the
attitudes that women are not leaders and to ensure women and girls have the education, skills and
experience to be good leaders.

Where Government has taken steps to include more women, as on Boards, anecdotal reports suggest that
the same women (usually from government departments) have been appointed to many boards. This raises
issues of representative voice.

The Inailau Womens Leadership Network (IWLN) has committed in its National Plan of Action for 2005 to
conduct voter education programmes, support and training for potential women candidates, research into
the factors influencing women’s participation in decision making and activities to strengthen the capacity
of women and women’s groups’ participation in all sectors of governance.

Recommended measures

We ask government to review the system whereby only matai title holders can run for parliament.

We ask that the ministry of women review the villages where women cannot be matai and begin actions/
training in these villages aimed at removing these social constraints

We call on the government to consider implementing nominal seats (2) for women for ten year period so as
to ensure women are represented in government decision making forums.

We ask that the ministry of women advertise the availability of places on boards and other government
bodies, and encourage women to apply for these posts

We ask Political parties to consider introducing gender sensitive manifestos and/ or gender quota systems
to support women candidates, and other affirmative actions such as placing women candidates in “safe”

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                              7
We support the National Council of Women and INAILAU WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP NETWORK
(IWLN) voter education programme and its mentoring programme for youth women leaders within the
national education system. We call on government to support and assist in resourcing these activities.

While women may be well represented on national delegations to international meetings (as stated in the
State report) there is discrimination by government against women from NGOs to accompany government
delegations or to be a national representative to regional and international conferences and workshops.
Whilst many government ministries have established partnerships with NGOs and utilize their expertise in
the formation of presentations for international forums little feedback is given upon return to their partners
who are often involved in the implementation of programs.

Recommended measures

We call on government to recognize women from the private and NGO sector and give consideration on
merit to be part of national delegations to regional and international meetings.

General Attainment

Data shows female primary school enrolments are slightly lower than males – which is in line with
population data. However, this situation is reversed at secondary level where female enrolments are higher
than males 3 a situation which has prompted calls for affirmative actions for male access to be carried out.


Education access is an issue for women with a disability. As reported in The Status of Women with
DisAbility in Samoa (2004) 52% of women with disabilities (WWD) compared to 42% of men with
disability (MWD) had no schooling or, had attended for a maximum of three years.4 Strategies to increase
access to education for this group are a priority.

Science and Technology

There are also concerns about the quality of girls’ educational experience. While anecdotal reports indicate
high levels of school drop outs, there is no information on which this group is, where this is occurring and
factors influencing drop outs. Girls’ career choices and options are influenced by the subjects they study.
Samoa’s Gender Equity Science and Technology Survey (APGEST UNESCO/ UNDP 2001)) found that
while female students performed exceptionally well in science subjects at secondary school through to the
6th form, they tended to drop science subjects and move into social sciences for their tertiary study. This
severely limited girls’ future career choices and prospects and helped perpetuate the myth that science is a
male subject5. The Ministry of Education and AUSAID have instituted a Gender Equity policy at the
Samoa Polytechnic. However, research is needed to determine factors influencing girl’s choices and,
strategies to address this situation. The Gender Equity Science and Technology group and IWLN – project,
“Girls can do anything”, are beginning to address this.

Recommended measures

  Education Statistical Digest, (2004)
  Lene, D. (2004), The Status of Women with DisAbility in Samoa, Inclusion International Asia Pacific
  Samoa’s Gender Equity Science and Technology Survey (APGEST UNESCO/ UNDP 2001)

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                                8
We recommend that the Ministry of Education carry out tracking studies in all primary and secondary
schools to establish which groups are dropping out of school and factors influencing these decisions. This
would include the review of the participation of special needs students.

We recommend that the Government continue to support inclusive education for students with disabilities,
including a focus on basic literacy and numeracy for adults, curriculum materials, teacher training and
accessible facilities.

We recommend that the Ministry of Education and NGOs develop timely career guidance, support and
information awareness programs to empower both the young girls to make informed career choices, which
include subjects such as science and technology. Training is required for the implementers of these
programs as well.

We recommend that the Ministry of Education and NGOs establish and monitor ongoing incentive schemes
to encourage more girls to take up science or technology related fields of study.

We call upon ILWN to continue their support to” Girls Can Do Anything” project.

Women in Samoa experience discrimination on the basis of gender due their reproductive status (pregnancy
and lactation). The international recommendation by the International Labour Organisation of which Samoa
is a member is that women are entitled to a period of maternity leave of not less than 14 weeks.
Furthermore it is stated that when she returns to work a women should be provided with daily breaks or a
reduction in working hours to breast feed her child. Currently, Samoa has eight weeks paid maternity leave
for permanent public servants and has no statutory law that enforces a specified time for paid maternity
leave for women in the private sector. A Samoa does not have a national policy on infant and young child
feeding that encourages the establishment of appropriate services such as child care facilities in the work
place and else where, that enables women to breast feed and continue employment.

Recommended measures

We urge government to adopt an Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy that protects breast feeding
women and their infants.

Access to services

Access to health care remains an issue, especially with an aging population of women who are often
widowed and have a disability. Aged and elderly women are a neglected sector of the population despite a
strong cultural belief in the care and maintenance of the elderly. Many families with meager resources are
ill equipped to care for the elderly when they are already over burdened with the care and education of their
families and children. Many families do not have the knowledge and skills to provide a balance and healthy
diet for the aged. Elderly women have few programmes catering specifically for their needs.

Whilst the traditional healers play a complimentary role in the delivery of health services, the inadequate
resourcing of rural health sub stations is of serious concern and results in many women receiving less than
satisfactory health care. Komiti Tumama (women’s health committees) with a membership of over 17 000
women represents one of the largest women’s organizations supporting women in rural and urban areas for
e.g. in 1998 they distributed 200 first aid cupboards with medicine and established a sustainable refilling

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                               9
program. Whilst initially established to support health programs they now implement through donor
partners most grass roots programs.

While access to health services is not regarded as a major issue in the State report, the cost can be since it
can vary between rural districts. The village Women’s Committees who are the caretakers of rural health
centres impose a small charge which for some families can be prohibitive. These vulnerable women and
their families become marginalised so do not receive or participate in the regular health services such as
immunisations for their children, ante, natal and post natal care and family planning.


Suicide of young women is frequently the result of harsh parental punishment/words or reprimands because
of an unplanned pregnancy. Incest and rape often leads to suicide. Infanticide is a commonly resorted to by
pregnant teenagers and young women who are ashamed of their pregnancy.
Although more men commit suicide than women in Samoa, and there are more male youth suicides than
there are female youth suicides, suicides of young women are consistently a higher proportion of all women
suicides than the suicides by young males as a proportion of all male suicides. An explanation for this is
the pressure put on young women to be virtuous and be sexually ‘pure’. All the stigma of premarital
pregnancy falls on the girl, and none on the boy. Faataua le Ola, an NGO which works towards the
prevention and public awareness of the suicide problem in Samoa needs the support and cooperation of
government, churches and the whole society to reduce this problem in Samoa.
Women in Prison

Women in prison have little access to rehabilitative programs and counseling. The establishment of
“Lafitaga Trust” and “Prison Ministry Society “ are two local NGOs addressing issues of women prisoners
with ground breaking work in this area to improve the conditions for women in prison.

Women prisoners are discriminated against by there reproductive role. The prisons do not provide facilities
to enable a breast feeding female prisoner to breast feed her child and give maternal care and nurture to the

Reproductive and Sexual Health

Despite the establishment of a Maternal and Family Planning project in 1972 and an Adolescent
Reproductive and Sexual Health Project more recently, changes in attitudes and practices have been slow.
The prevailing attitude is to deny reproductive and sexual health information to young unmarried people,
believing that this will prevent promiscuity, and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STIs. Young unmarried
women continue to be discriminated against when seeking information and or assistance for contraceptive
services. Young men on the other hand have little difficulty procuring condoms.

These beliefs and practices continue to contribute to the increase in unplanned and unsafe abortions.
Deliveries to teenage mothers rose from 4.5% of all deliveries in 1991 to 9.2% in 1994. The National
Hospital in 1993 recorded 80% of abortions as “unspecified”-an euphemism for illegal.6 Many of the
unwanted pregnancies result from incest or rape. Members of the Traditional Healers Association confirm
that women and girls seeking abortions constitute a fair proportion of their clientele. Though abortion
remains illegal there is an emerging movement to amend the abortion law largely initiated by a recent
recommendation by the Chief Justice for Parliament to make this amendment. PPSEAWA Samoa and
IWLN are two NGOs currently encouraging public dialogue to promote abortion law reform and the
provision of user-friendly, all inclusive, effective contraceptive services.

From October 1999 to April 2000 a cross-sectional survey was conducted at the National Hospital in
Apia(with assistance from WHO) to determine the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

  Review of the Reproductive Health/Family Planning and Sexual Health Programme in Western Samoa –
( Ministry of Health, December 1996)

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                               10
including HIV in women attending the antenatal clinic. Within the sample of 472 women participating, 178
(37.7%) were found to have one or more STI. High prevalence of STIs in a moderate to low-risk
population of pregnant women is a matter of concern and demonstrates a potentially dangerous
environment for the spread of HIVAIDS especially amongst the young unmarried population..
Key recommendations from the research included a review of:

     •   policy and strategies for STIs and HIV by the Ministry of Health,
     •   access to confidential clinical services for sexual health and family planning,
     •   public education to promote awareness of STIs,
     •   current STI/HIV prevention strategies amongst young people. 7

The Samoa Family Health Association is affiliated and receives the majority of their funding from
International Planned Parenthood Federation. It offers family planning information and methods at a fixed
and mobile facility and conducts workshops and road shows in the rural areas. Komiti Tumama is a
member of the National Coordinating Aids Committee and also plays an active and ongoing role in
awareness programs relating to HIV/AIDS. The Executive Officer of Samoa Family Health and Komiti
Tumama are concerned that the National Population Policy (1998) has not been adopted by Cabinet and is
now out of date. The concern is largely regarding the lack of a national policy that allows for sexual and
reproductive health education in schools and commits government and non-government agencies to
measures that must be taken to address the threat of STIs especially HIV/AIDS., teen-pregnancies, unsafe
abortions, infanticide and abandonment of newborns.

Breast and cervical cancer screening.

We strongly support the recommendation by government regarding the promotion of the ‘establishment and
capacity of the National Hospital (Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital) to undertake screening in country’
however consideration must be given to the needs of rural women especially in the outer islands.

A Cancer society has been formed in Samoa which mainly addresses lung cancer. Little activity is evident
regarding raising awareness of and the importance of cancer screening for women. Two female private
general practitioners offer screening which discriminates because of cost and availability. But they would
welcome an initiative from government to assist in the establishment of an all-inclusive cancer screening
service for women.


The state report acknowledges growth in inclusive attitudes toward people with disability but this growth is
of such a low base nationally that future focused attention is warranted. Women with disability in Samoa
do not have the opportunities to participate fully in Samoan society. The establishment of a self advocacy
body for people with disability, Nuanua o le Alofa has realized the completion of a national census on
disability and a report that disaggregates the data by gender (The Status of Women with DisAbilities in
Samoa, 2004). Samoa is now in a position to utilize this information to form inclusive policy and practice.
The Status of Women (15 years +) with DisAbility in Samoa identified the following areas for focused

The census identified that there are more women with disability (WWD) than men in the age group 15years
+ (1516 women and 1358 men). The majority of this population resides in rural locations (83%). In the
population of WWD (15 years +), 38.5% are aged 61+ years. The highest reported cause of disability was
through illness (usually non-communicable diseases). This was followed by disability through the aging
process. There are also high percentages of women (7.7%, 116 cases) who acquired disability through birth

  Antenatal Clinic STI Survey, Apia, Samoa July 2000 (Ministry of Health, Samoa and WHO Western
Pacific Regional Office)

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                             11
complications. The marital status of WWD is also of concern with 80% of women born with a disability
never marrying. However it was noted during the field in this study that many WWD had children.
Whilst the state reports favourable on girls in Samoa and their participation in education through primary
secondary and tertiary levels this is not the case for women born with a disability or acquired a disability
within the first 5 years of life, within this population we find that 52% of WWD compared to 42% of men
with disability (MWD) have not attended school or only attended for a maximum of three years.
Acknowledged are the initiatives by government to establish teacher training for inclusive education and
special needs units in government schools however these units are facing major difficulties and have
experienced a drop in enrollments.

The general population of people with disabilities (PWD) has extremely low percentages of paid work and
income generation (1.3%and 1.1% respectively). WWD compared to MWD have a lower percentage of
both paid work and income generation. Figure 1 illustrates the high percentage of both men and women
with disability who earn no income or assist in family activities.

Access to health care is a major issue for the 83% of the total population of women with disabilities who
live in rural location. Majority numbers indicated that they have not had their disability assessed or
diagnosed and receive minimal assistance through the health system.

                      Figure 1: PWD (15+) by gender and Labour Force Participation



                              600                                           647



                                                                                                   159   153                              Male

                                0                                                                                                         Female

















                                    Type of work mainly involved

     From “The Status of Women with Disability Report, Donna Lene, Inclusion International (2004)

WWD also reported a low 9% involvement rate in village systems. Clearly they experience discrimination
at all levels of decision making and access to important village development programs such as reproductive
and sexual health. 8
Recommended Measures

We call on government to develop an integrated approach and support the work of NGOs such as:

    •   Faataua le Ola in the prevention of Suicide,

    •   Komiti Tumama in delivery of health services to rural women,

    •   Lafitaga Trust in their work with women in Prisons and in poverty alleviation,

 Lene, D. (2004), The Status of Women with DisAbility in Samoa, Inclusion International Asia Pacific

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                                                                       12
     •    Mapusaga o Aiga in the prevention of violence against women

     •    Samoa Family Health Association, in the provision of Family planning services, education and
We call on government to develop an Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy, to adopt an up-dated
Population Policy and to resource the Food and Nutrition Policy and Plan of Action

We call on government to promote the discussion on abortion with the view to review related legislation in
section 73A of the Crimes Ordinance 1961. We also urge government to establish sex education and
awareness and to ensure equitable access to contraceptives for women to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

We strongly urge government to establish under its auspice a “Disability Action Task Force”. This task
would consist of government and non-government representation specifically including representation from
women with disability. The main function of the task force world is to establish a national disability
strategy that incorporates broad stakeholder consultation. This plan should explicitly target the needs and
issues of WWD.

Specific consideration needs to be given to the establishment of a welfare support system that includes
WWD and their support people. This system needs to specifically address the needs of individuals and must
consider the aging widowed female population with disabilities.

The CEDAW partnership in Samoa must adopt a more progressive rights based approach with regard to
discrimination faced by girls and women with disabilities and include representation from Nuanua o le
Alofa National Council for People with Disabilities as a partnership member.


Rural women do not enjoy the same quality of life as urban women for a number of inter-related reasons
including: the fewer economic options in rural areas; the generally lower standard of education, health
transport and market services e.g. the national shortage of doctors and teachers is undoubtedly impacting
more on rural areas9 10 and, the lack of effective and accessible service and support systems to protect
women and girls from acts of violence and physical and sexual abuse. Rural women in Samoa suffer
generally from a lack of access to quality infrastructure, quality education in all spheres, income generating
opportunities and appropriate health care services.


Increasing work loads and vulnerability to poverty 11 are of concern. Data shows the rural labour force is
being depleted by steady urban drift; largely of males e.g. Savaii registered a population decrease of 3% in
the period 1991-200112. In many villages, the task of dealing with higher old age and child dependency
ratios is falling on women, who outnumber males in the economically active age group. The change in
family structure resulting from this drift places vulnerable groups such as elderly women and women with
disabilities at risk as there is no safety net or social welfare system within the government to provide
assistance with consideration to the rural perspective.


  Samoa News Sunday October 17, 2004.
   Priorities of the People; Hardship in Samoa , Asian Development Bank, Available
   Asian Development Bank Country Report on Samoa, 2003
   2001 Population and Housing Census, Selected Tabulations, Ministry of Finance, Samoa Government

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                               13
Lower life expectancies. e.g. national life expectancies are 73.8 for females and 71.8 for males. For Savaii
(largest rural island), these are 72.5 for females and 70.3 for males. The population of Savaii experience
higher fertility rates and teenage pregnancies. The Population and Household Census 2001, showed the
total pregnancies for 15-19 year olds was 1745 in Savaii (rural area) compared with 487 in all the rest of
Samoa (over 3 times higher in rural areas). Demographic indicators reveal higher infant mortality rates13
(IMR) indicating that rural women do not have access to sound reproductive and sexual health information
and services nor do they have equal access to and information about screening procedures such as for breast
cancer and cervical cancer.

Access to basic services

Whilst there has been a general improvement in basic infrastructure in rural areas there is still a need to
improve the quality and affordability of basic services such as communication, water, transport and
electricity as they impact directly on the role and lives of women in rural settings. Examples which
highlight this are listed below:

     •   Dependence on springs, rainwater, and rivers for drinking water. Water must be boiled for
     •   Transport is not accessible. Most people have to walk for about 30 minutes to an hour or more to
         get to markets and access other services. This impacts access to basic education, health services,
         and markets, and the ability to earn cash and buy basic food provisions.
     •   Communication using the telephone is limited. People without telephones go to neighbors' homes
         or women’s committee telephone and pay an average of ST2.00 per call.
     •   Electricity is very expensive.

A large proportion of the population of women with disabilities (83%) live in rural locations. These women
indicated that access to health care as a major issue.14 Majority numbers indicated that they have not had
their disability assessed or diagnosed and receive minimal assistance through the health system.

Safety and protection issues.

Alcohol related acts of domestic violence and child abuse are increasing in rural villages, largely but not
always related to economic pressures. These are commonly dealt with by Village Councils of male matai,
because there are no police. Reports show matai are often the perpetrator and so there is no safe place for
the victims or justice.15 The majority of women in rural settings do not hold matai titles and therefore their
participation in village councils is restricted. Women who are victims of violence are often not aware of
their rights and have limited access to legal recourse and advice which results in the majority of cases being
unreported. The government has recently appointed women liaison officers to act as the contact persons for
the Ministry of Women. It is envisaged that these village liaison officers would directly assist the Ministry
of Women in identifying discriminatory processes based on gender and contribute to the removal of gender
discriminatory practices in rural settings.

Access to Micro Enterprise and Business

South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) organization and Women in Business are two local NGOs
that promote micro enterprise and businesses for women in the rural areas. There is still a lack of self
sustaining enterprises that allow women to make their own income for the support of their families within

   2001 Population and Housing Census, Selected Tabulations, Ministry of Finance, Samoa Government.
   Taaloga, F & Lene, D. (2003) Samoa Adult 15+ Disability Identification Census Report & Key
Recommendations, Nuanua o le Alofa & Inclusion International Asia Pacific Region.
   Siaosi Sumeo, K., (2003). A research on processes used to address the physical and sexual abuse in
Samoa. Unpublished. Masters Thesis. Massey University

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                               14
the rural setting. Unsecured small loans are not considered viable by any Banks including the Development
Bank of Samoa. SPBD recently disbursed small loans that brought its micro loan financing total to
four million Samoan tala. This organization has relied solely on private financing.

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                          15
Access to quality adult education.
Functional literacy is an issue in rural areas. Some adult education is available through the Komiti
Tumama (women’s health committees) a voluntary NGO. Training includes health, home economics, Aids
prevention and awareness, reproductive health and family planning, nutrition, and establishing preschools
within the village system. There is seldom a follow up or evaluation of the training carried out and so there
are issues of quality and sustainability. Distance learning units have been established through partnership
of CBOs and the Samoa Polytechnic in the area of small business.

Access to ICT

Lack of access to ICT is also creating a digital divide and disparity between rural and urban women’s use
of this medium. Komiti Tumama is endeavouring to address this as the implementing partner through the
government’s national ICT plan by establishing telecentres within their village systems. Government needs
to ensure that appropriate support, resources and provide capacity building for Komiti Tumama.

Recommended Measures

We strongly recommend that the role of the ministry of women be strengthened to identify and facilitate the
removal of gender discriminatory practices in rural areas.

We strongly recommend that government explore the viability of a social welfare support programme and
comprehensive programmes for vulnerable women’s groups such as elderly and aged women and women
with disabilities.

We call on government for the increased allocation of resources to address the specific health needs of rural
women including support for the rural NGO implementing partners such as Komiti Tumama. This should
include specific training for health workers:

•   In the health issues that women with disabilities experience at different stages of life ,
•   Appropriate ways to support women with disabilities in accessing rural healthcare services.
•   To carry out screening procedures to identify ‘at risk’ individuals, families and lifestyles.

We call on government to promote the training of community paralegals for the promotion of women’s
legal rights in rural areas where women are more comfortable to access assistance.

We call upon the government to introduce incentives for doctors, nurses and teachers to work in rural areas

We call on government to support the initiatives of NGOS in establishing adult literacy and life skills
programs in rural areas.

We call on government to create an enabling environment for the development of the work of women’s
NGOs in rural settings.

We call on government to ensure the representation of rural NGOs and CBOs dealing with women’s issues
participation in national policy mechanisms.

We call on government to support further support the promotion of micro business in the rural areas and
promote the financing for the development of micro and small business for women through international
financial agencies e.g. World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                              16

We acknowledge the work of the government in attempting to improve the status of women. At the same
time, the Government must now direct its priorities to policy level actions to ensure that CEDAW goals are
mainstreamed in the policies and programmes of each government department and ministry. Uppermost, is
the urgency for the preparation of a National Policy for Women: this will provide direction and cohesion to
women’s efforts and enable the strategic implementation and monitoring of CEDAW at both macro and
micro levels. Strategies to address gender discrimination must be incorporated into constitutional and
legislative reforms, especially those relating to women and girls as victims of violence. An integral
component of this reform will be the establishment of a Family Law Court and a Human Rights
Commission. Activities connected to the proposed Law Reform Commission present a timely intervention
point for women NGOs for e.g. establishing a forum on the issue of abortion.

We acknowledge that a firm partnership between governments and NGOs will be necessary to achieve the
CEDAW goals: this partnership must be built on mutual trust and on groups recognizing each others
strengths and agreeing to work together in a spirit of complementarity rather than competition.
Government-NGO partnerships will assist in upholding the CEDAW goals of equity for women in village
decision-making agencies. Government- NGO partnerships will also ensure that vulnerable groups, such as
rural women and girls, and those with disabilities enjoy access to efficient education, health and protection
services – i.e. the benefits of development are equally spread. Cultural practices will also need to be
reviewed in relationship to their influence on women’s social, economic and political participation in these
times of rapid change.

Finally, we acknowledge the role of the CEDAW partnership established under the auspices of the Ministry
of Women and Community Development and anticipate the further strengthening of this resource body
through review and clarification of its role and function

Samoa NGO Shadow Report 2004                                                                              17

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