News & Events

The National University of Samoa's Vice-Chancellor and President has described the 2nd PIURN conference as a great success.

 An educational three days of deliberations where so much has been touched on. A total of 55 presenters from around the Pacific Region presented well on various issues.

“Activities of this nature of academic researchers reflects well upon ourselves, in relation to our environment, and to the bigger world and of course bigger issues like climate change, indigenous knowledge and land issues," said Pro. Fui Leapai Tu’ua ‘Ilaoa Asofou Soo.

On day one presenter talked mainly on issues with climate change and in relation to our daily lives and our environment. On the second day of the conference, presenters mainly presented on indigenous knowledge, our culture and everything else versus developments. On the final day, presenters focused more on land issues.

“This is the stage for researchers to disseminate their findings and inform others who have not had the opportunity to research on these areas," Prof. Fui said.

Presenters including students studying for their Masters degrees also had the opportunity to present their research done on conference themes. As the host, the NUS benefited in many ways because all lecturers from the university could sit in and listen. Samoa’s economy is also benefitting because many researchers traveling from overseas inject money into our economy. Now that the conference closes, French Polynesia is preparing to host the 3rd PIURN in 2018.

Caption: Pro.Fui Tu'ua 'Ilaoa Asofou Soo

*By Tutuila Farao


Reducing inequality is a major goal on the development agenda but research presented at the Second Pacific Islands University Research Network (PIURN) conference at NUS on Wednesday suggested it might not be as beneficial as once thought.

Professor Catherine Ris' presentation the University of New Caledonia, discussed whether inequality is harmful for development. "When considered in global context, the Pacific levels of inequality are not extremely high,” said Prof. Ris.

In social protection, policies and gender based policies are crucial for reducing poverty and inequality. "Across the Pacific, over 20% of the people are in hardship, meaning they are unable to meet their basic food and non-food needs,” Prof Ris said.

"Poverty is a lot less obvious as people do have access to their own self-sufficient sort of livelihoods," she said.

It is acceptable and sometimes even desirable if people’s lifestyles reflect free choices. It would be less of a concern if children of low-income parents had a good chance to contribute in the needs in terms of finance and economy.

“Many school-age children in developing countries for instance, are unable to attend school due to family circumstances, “Prof Ris said.

The development in theory is most commonly used to predict inequality. Governments in the Pacific usually provide people with opportunities in education health, security and basic infrastructure. During discussions following Prof Ris’ presentation, it was mentioned that Samoa has a very high rate of inequality. It has a sensitive method of justifying the good and bad.

Inequality was there before development but now distributed income resulted in increasing inequality.

People in different economic status respond differently and knowing that, inequality provides opportunities that are caused by the differences in circumstances.

Photo Caption: Samoa has a very high rate of inequality – Prof. Ris

*By Joshua Setima and Vaise Ta'alefili (Both Joshua and Vaise are media and journalism students at NUS)

Derivation and interpretation are some of the terms that lead and change our language from its original creation, said Letuimanu'asina Prof. Emma Kruse-Vaai from the National University of Samoa (NUS).

“Our language changes through the use and the increasing of impacts of social media, and changes appear in Samoan films, songs and also in everyday conversation.” She also addressed the fact that Samoan spoken in the country nowadays is very different from earlier Samoan due to the impacts of modernisation.

"The first missionaries who entered our country in the 19th century also brought in changes when they taught us how to read and write,'' said Prof. Letuimanu’asina. "As well as introducing of new words by making videos, song and also conversations using new words,” she said.

Prof. Letuimanu’asina explained that Pacific universities should prioritise their own local languages. "Encourage Samoan language to be compulsory in every school to make sure Samoan language becomes fully understood and spoken,” she said.

Caption: Letumanu’asina Prof. Emma Kruse Vaai

*By Peti Tagotau and Marylin Atuai (Both Peti and Marylin are media and journalism students

The introduction of Christianity in Samoa by English missionaries and their wives led to their imposing of models of gender based on Victorian ideals that promoted the roles of women as maternal and domestic.

Reverend Latu Latai, a London Missionaries Society (L.M.S) tutor at Malua Theological College from the Australian National University (A.N.U) spoke of how the Changing Covenants in Samoa during his presentation at the second Pacific Islands University Research Network Conference at National University of Samoa (N.U.S).

 "These ideals were taught by missionaries at Malua seminar and portrayed by the wives of missionaries who allegedly served as role models of the ideal women to be emulated by their local counterparts," Rev. Latu said.

Rev. Latu said that the homes of missionaries became the 'object lesson' where local women observed and learned from the missionary wife as she performed her domestic duties." Later boarding schools such as Papauta were established where girls were taught domestic skills,” Rev. Latu said.

“Consequently in promoting this ideal of women as domestic and maternal, missionaries undermined the status of Samoan women as ‘feagaiga’ or sacred covenants both within their kin and village.

“Overall Christianity has had a negative effect on the status and valuation of Samoan women. Once the practices and institutions that gave women much power were destabilized by missionaries, their influence as sisters was weakened, while their status as wives was emphasized. “For women as sister, this decline in power was not only political but sacred,” Rev. Latu said.

He also mentioned that under the missionary dispensation, the old role of sacred sister as ‘feagaiga’ was replaced by that of sacred pastor.

Today pastors are referred to as ‘faafeagaiga’, depicting the transposition of the values of the brother-sister relationship between the pastor and the village congregation. “It meant that women’s sacred status under the new order was devalued while the new figure of the pastor’s sacred power was enhanced,” Rev. Latu said.

Research published as ‘The Introduction of women’s fellowship by missionaries and health committees by the New Zealand Colonial Administration in the 1920’s’ further this emphasis (Dunlop 1998, 2000; Tcherkezoff 2008). Such groups which were often led by the wives of pastors and chiefs, amalgamated all women in local villages, blurring the distinction between women as ‘feagaiga’ and those who were married into the village or ‘nofotane’.

This promoted a novel social binary between the sexes, where all women were grouped on one side and all men on the other, despite the differences in rank and status.

“The impact of this gendered binary based on the husband-wife relationship has had a major impact on the status of women as sisters and in their social organization of the ‘aualuma’,” said Rev. Latu.

 “Women who are married into the village are now taking more prominent roles in the village“. This is made possible by the amalgamation of all women in the village through the church led by the wife of the pastor.

 In some villages there is still an effort to distinguish the ‘aualuma’ from wives. The success of women’s fellowship in Samoa means that the power and influence of sisters is gradually being eclipsed by that of their brother’ wives.

“It was through women , that cosmological justification of rank and power was legitimated, where sanctity permeated all aspects of life, rather than being relegated to the sphere of religion, the power of women, once very substantial, gradually declined,” Rev. Latu concluded.

The missionary’s emphasis on the role of woman as domestic and maternal are largely blamed for the devaluation of the status of women as ‘merely’ wives.

Caption: Reverend Latu Latai: Sacred sister as feagaiga replaced by sacred pastor

*By Katalina Tovia and Julie Simati (Both Katalina and Julie are media and journalism students at NUS)


 The negative effects of human activity on terrestrial and marine resources as fundamental bases of our daily lives are real.

 Fiu Mataese Elisara, Executive Director of O le Siosiomaga Society Inc (O.L.S.S.I), discussed the issues concerning, ‘Evolving principles and practices on Sustainable development, Climate Change and Land Tenure systems in the Pacific’, at the final day of the Second Pacific Islands University Research Network (PIURN) Conference at the National University of Samoa (NUS). Sustainable development has been talked about for more than half a century, Fiu said.

 Many caught up in the concept of sustainable development were unprepared 54 years ago and we find ourselves even today desperately struggling to catch up with a tomorrow already made obsolete the realities of today.

 "A balance translation of three pillars-economic growth, social equity and environmental integrity, into an integrated whole," said Fiu.

 "Cultural diversity central to Pacific lives, pushed as a fourth pillar. The Pacific is arguably in the best position to practice sustainable development.” "It is imperative the world moves from sustainable development to sustainable human development," he said.

 He explained that putting poor people first, enlarging their opportunities to live long healthy lives, to be educated, to have employment needed for a decent standard of living. It means generating rather than degrading the natural resource base, to provide present and future generations with sustainable livelihoods.

 "Development which does not improve the lives of the poor has no soul," he said. "One that impoverishes the environment has no vision.” "One that fails to empower individuals and communities has no anchor.  "One that fails to enlarge opportunities of people has no future," said Fiu.

 Fiu said that the shifting goal posts of the rich are realities of today. “They point to dictating the lives of developing countries including the Pacific and they do it deliberately for their convenience.”

 He also said the negative effects on terrestrial and marine resources as fundamental basis of our daily lives are real. "Climate change is a specific Pacific issue," Fiu said.  "For many of us, it is matter of life and death, it is urgent.”

 "In many cases, we are forced to leave our ancestral homes and live in foreign lands that we do not identify with. It is about Climate justice," he said.

 Climate Change violated those rights. "Culprits responsible must bear responsibility and held accountable for our demise. We lose our culture, face forced alienation of customary land, our traditional lives are trashed and we are denied freedom to exist as sovereign peoples and countries," Fiu said.

He concluded his presentation focusing on the theme, Challenges on Customary Land under development and Climate Change.

Customary lands and related principles and practices are particular targets of foreign interests and national investors.

 "Be warned, Pacific peoples see it coming, do not mistake it," said Mr. Elisara.  “The Papua New Guinea (PNG) customary land tenure system covers 97 percent of total land mass, and is life support for 80 percent of total population," he said.

 Pacific Islands such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Malukau, Solomom Islands, West Papua, and Vanuatu claimed protection of customery lands in response to increasing threats to customary land and sea systems, posed by land reforms, deep sea exploration, seabed mining and foreign agendas of aid agencies, international financial institutions, governments and elites within the Pacfic.

 Fiu also said that uprooting people, making land available for investors continue today, in the name of ‘development’. It benefits transnational companies, allow them to freely access and exploit our natural resources. It relocates people as an adaptation response to climate change, and force resettlements on those in coastal village communities.

 "In Samoa leasing and licensing of customary land has, however been practiced in the past," he said.

 "The Alienation of Customary Lands Act 1965 (ACLA) regulated these leases and licenses entered into by the matai on behalf of all his customary land owners with their consent.

 "Under ACLA, leases and licenses of customary lands could be granted only by the Minister responsible for lands. "But registration did not convey an ‘indefeasible title’ as in the Torrens system where ‘indefeasible title’ is ownership that cannot be defeated, revoked, or cancelled by reference to any past event, error or omission in the title," said Fiu.

 This use of leasehold rights over customary lands as a collateral to raise funds through a secured loan was new to Samoan customary land laws.

 The effect of this 2013 amendment further erodes the inalienability of customary lands. Fiu mentioned that complainants fear mortgage of leases could be granted by the Minister without the consent of customary land owners and subsequent assignments of such mortgages for default put customary lands in the hands of unknown third parties. “Land to us is special. Land is our life, identity, culture, tradition, source of our language, medicine, and our connection with the land is spiritual and natural,” Fiu said.

 “It is our most valuable asset - everyone owns land, uses it, eats out of it, and is buried in it upon death. Any transfer of right in land is understood as temporary regardless of the provision in laws. Land dealings by government without free prior informed consent and agreements of customary land owners are not valid.

 "For the future of our children, we need to break away from current systems of over-exploitation, unlimited land grabbing, over-consumption, over-production and over-extraction," Fiu added.

 Many solutions continue to exist in the methods and systemic alternatives of the Pacific. In local village communities, indigenous peoples, women, small farmers, fisher folks.

These solutions can secure food security and sovereignty, and allow enjoy holistic living, agro-ecology, environment conservation, rights of nature, spiritual connectivity, and cultural integrity. “Changing the system is our hope to reclaim our future!” Fiu concluded.

 Caption: Fiu Mataese Elisara, expressing challenges of sustainable development in the Pacific.

*By Katalina Tovia and Julie Simati Fiu (Both Katalina and Julie are media and journalism students at NUS)

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