The Future of Women’s Leadership in Samoa

Silia Pa'usisi Finau

Samoan legends and myths documented that matriarchal leadership existed prior to colonization and Christianity. Queen Salamasina, a woman was the first official tafa’ifā (holder of four paramount chiefly titles) in the history of the country. With the advent of the missionaries matriarchal leadership was gradually superseded by male leadership, firstly by Christian missionaries in 1830, and later by colonial powers after World War 2. Even after Samoa became independent in 1962 leadership positions in families, churches, government, and organizations and culturally have predominantly been males. Aspiring women to leadership positions have met with many obstacles. As such the need for gender equality in participation and representation in traditional village judiciaries (local government) is the focus of this article. The many challenges that impede Samoan women entering leadership positions in local government are influenced by cultural values, religious beliefs, and social assumptions. Cultural values are considered significant as people’s perception of a leader is equated to male leadership embedded in a village’s cultural norm. Religious beliefs also emphasized the role of the father as the head of the family to further reinforce cultural restrictions on women access to leadership positions. Social assumptions that associate women’s work with household tasks contributed to this belief. Consequently, women participation is on the periphery evident in women’s committees but full participation in village councils (fono a le nu’u) are barred.

Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Anita Togolo
November 14, 2022
Published in
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