Written by: Jennifer Tofaeono, Ex Director Photo retrieved from: https://utopiawa.org/blog/60-years-of-faafafine-history-a-timeline-of-herstory-makers-events-surrounding-them-in-american-samoa/
The Alliance was awarded a 36 month grant through the Office of Violence Rural focused on improving the response to violence for the Fa’afafine Community. Through the Alliance and our partners, we will strive to empower and provide the means for our community to strengthen allies, create new partnerships, and work towards change to improve the lives of Fa’afafine community who face domestic and sexual violence.
As the Alliance Executive Director, I recognize that this 36-month program will focus on community conversations, leadership building, community visioning and an action plan implementation to improve the lives of Fa’afafine’s who victims of violence are, while strengthening advocates response to violence for the Fa’afafine community. We have much to do in a short time.
Our first steps are to hire a Program Manager and Administrative Assistant focused solely on the Rural Project. The Project Manager will be responsible to develop a program that will strengthen collaboration among service providers, ally organizations, and SOFIAS to meet the needs of the Fa’afafine victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and improve the safety and well-being of the Fa’afafine community.
The next step is to educate and train three Fa’afafine’s, based on the geographical zone organized by SOFIAS to provide Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault for Fa’afafine victims and coordinate service provision with LBJ Tropical Medical Centers, Department of Human & Social Services (ASG).
In our discussions with Fa’afafine community they want to address systemic discrimination and improve public awareness of gender-based violence. They have stated confidently they can “take care of their own”, and this is witnessed through the development of the SOFIAS as well as the zone spaces. They have requested training to empower Fa’afafine to organize calls action, and the Rural Grant will support these activities.
Over the next three years we ask the community to follow us on this journey, and to aid in the success of this project. One way you can show your help is by providing information to the community about the positions available for the Rural Project. If you are interested in being a part of this project, please visit our website at: https://www.asalliance.co/positions-available.html and review the position(s) available. If you have any questions email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer any questions. I know that my team and I are looking for amazing new additions to the staff. Looking forward to hearing from you!!
Written by: Jennifer Tofaeono, Ex Director Rosemarie Hidalgo, informing the approved award amount of $750,000 for the Fiscal Year 2023 Rural Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Program Solicitation, and is good for three years. This project allows the Alliance to continue the Rural Project for the last two years with the Fa’afafine Community, and partnership with the SOFIAS (Society of Fa’afafine in American Samoa).
The purpose of the grant is to implement of a victim services project for American Samoa, in partnership with the SOFIAS to help the Fa’afafine Community who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking in our rural community. Specific activities will include hiring Fa’afafine advocates to coordinate with the sole Fa’afafine representing organization in the territory: SOFIAS to create a culturally specific domestic violence sexual assault (DVSA) curriculum for Polynesian Fa’afafine. The grant will assist in establishing an infrastructure, creating safe spaces in zones and a Resource Center. Lastly, the Alliance will develop training curriculum for three Fa’afafine advocates and twenty service providers to improve response to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence in the Fa’afafine community.
Our next steps is to complete the award requirements of the acceptance package, and obtain funding to begin grant activities. We will establish the job descriptions for two positions within the grant, Project Manager and Administrative Assistant. The Alliance search for space to create the Resource Center for the project. We ask that you continue to follow us as we share updates of the project. If you would like more information regarding this project please do not hesitate to email: email@example.com, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive more information.
Photo retrieved from SOFIAS FacebookPage https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=336019808749505&set=pb.100070244640816.-2207520000&type=3
On September 25, 2023 the Alliance was informed by the Office on Violence Against Women the approval of award entitled 2023 OVW Fiscal Year Rural Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Program approved for $750,000 for years 2023-2026.
The purpose of this award is to continue our project with the SOFIAS to help identify, assess, and appropriately respond to child, youth, and adult victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking in rural communities. Over the next three years the Alliance, thru this project will help to establish and expand victim services in rural communities to child, youth and adult victims. It will help to increase the safety and well being of Fa'afafine Victims to increase the safety and well-being in American Samoa.
Over the next three years we will work to increase the safe being of the Fa'afafine community by creating and implementing strategies to expand and establish cooperative efforts and projects among law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim service providers; provide treatment and counseling advocacy and other long-term and short-term specific services for Fa'afafine community. Lastly we will help to develop programs and strategies with the Fa'afafine community who live in American Samoa.
Written by: Jennifer F Tofaeono, MBA, Ex Director ASADSV
The Alliance was invited to be a speaker at the National Center for Victims of Crime meeting in Boston, Ma on November 7, 2023. Alliance Executive Director, a National Speaker Jennifer Tofaeono, and CDC Rape Prevention Education Project Manager for the Alliance, National Speaker, Luana Yoshikawa-Scanlan both presented on Developing Safe Spaces for Fa’afafine Community to Increase Advocacy a Story about Collaboration. The discussions led by Ms. Tofaeono, educated participants about the Alliance organization as well as its mission. Participants were given information about the Fa’afafine, the Samoan sense of self as well as the partnership between the SOFIAS and the Alliance. Ms. Luana Yoshikawa-Scanlan provided insight regarding the project activities and outcomes. The outcome of the project was to create a culturally tailored fa’afafine informed plan, and to build a community-based coordinated response to the needs of fa’afafine group.
The information was well received, as participants were from Alaska, Hawaii, and form varying parts of the United States. Moving forward the Alliance will partner with the SOFIAS to develop presentation catered to meet the needs of the Fa’afafine Community about this project. Please follow us as we will share our findings with the local community.
Written by: Karrollyn Fitisone
We might all be familiar now with the idea that mental health issues are common, and
they do not discriminate, as in anyone from any walk of life may at some point in their life,
experience poor mental health. We also know that these issues can disproportionately affect,
specific communities and in regard to our project: Rural communities, gender minorities, culturally specific groups that exist in American Samoa such as fa’afafine. The statewide
statistics suggest that some gender minorities experience hardships and mental health issues.
More frequently and more severe than gender normative groups. We know that this can be linked to a number of factors but that at the root of these issues is prejudice and injustice. As we continue to speak up about the importance of prioritizing mental health, we hope that the
conversation will always include our indigenous populations, and the minorities within the
minorities. We hope that society can progress to a point where individuals are met with the care they need and at the least given the opportunity to do so, in that way we can continue to strive to achieve true mental health equity for our people.
Written by: Jennifer F Tofaeono, MBA, Executive Director
I have been fortunate to sit with many people, family, friends, co-workers, etc. In these circles we “kiki it” (or have a good time) as we just share stories and laugh –to heal. We find many of our stories are the same, as our cultural practices become evident. We share stories of how our parents would reprimand, or “fasi” us to teach us a lesson. We share stories of the importance of our elders to help teach us what is right, and how to engage with each other. All important conversations that can lead to a sense of camaraderie—when we have same stories, we sense acceptance. Yet, what happens when we feel that the stories we share are different, therefore there is no connection made between storyteller and listener?
I have always believed for us to progress and heal from our stories it is important to canvas all conversations being held to help growth. Currently Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) discussions are being held to help create more inclusive communities. DEI has always mattered, but more recently the current focus makes it essential. You will see many workplaces enforce DEI, as it is more organizational polices, but should be developed into our homes. Teams and organizations are being built to accept and hold a varied composition of people and groups. Equity is fair treatment, to provide access, opportunities and advance for ALL people to create connections.
In our Fa’afafine community we love them as caretakers, providers, and see their ability to be both female and male in one being. In many of my talk stories with Fa’afafine community the constant theme is focused on acceptance. I have heard the following statements in my talk story with the Fa’afafine community, “I can be the main caregiver of my family,” but am not considered a “teine” (girl)." "I attended school, and have my bachelor’s degree, my masters. I have had to fight to be recognized." "I have been touched by the men in my family, and they then tease, taunt, and beat me, am I not the victim?" When we listen to stories we develop stronger connections as human beings, to begin healing. After sitting with my fa’afafine community, I am amazed by their resilience, and their strength. I have witnessed their success but know there is still a constant need for acceptance. It is because of this work that I do, I recognize acceptance can become the first step to healing. Understanding, and learning about each other, through acceptance can create positive spaces.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion requires in-depth conversations. Organizations are implementing DEI as a focus for their company’s. It is important to understand that inclusion is more a feeling, and the product of diversity. When people are accepted, felt seen, heard, it can help to foster safe spaces for all. It is not easy creating DEI spaces, as we in our community belittle those who are seen different. We can change this as many victims of violence are beaten for being seen as “different”. It is important to learn more about inclusion, and the ability to build acceptance. When we accept, learn more about each other there would be less violence built on our differences.
Newly Crowned Miss SOFIAS Christian Wright- Salavea Shares How She was Banned From Using a Woman's Bathroom
On Saturday, April 22, 2023, I was invited to participate as a Judge for the SOFIAS (Society of Fa’afafine in American Samoa) Pageant. This is an event that has a long-standing history in American Samoa, as this was the 39th Annual event. The opening numbers, and the outfits worn were glamorous, as the theme centered on the “Dollhouse”. Miss Christian Wright Sa’alea had described her experience of being denied access to use the women’s bathroom in a local store, which represents many stories shared by the Fa’afafine community.
There is a long standing ‘debate as to what public bathrooms trans people should access. In a recent study done in Britain, it was found 29% of people agreed for specified trans women who had not undergone gender-affirming surgeries, they should use women’s bathrooms. For women who have gone through gender-affirming surgeries, 53% of people were in favor. Unfortunately, these belief systems place trans women to fall victim to violent crimes. Studies show, that women are accosted in restrooms, but trans women fall victim to violent crimes while using public bathrooms.
Accessing safe spaces is a conversation that should be held within every community. Accessing safe public bathrooms are conversations that need to be held within our community, due to safety, and human rights issues. In discussions I have held with our local fa’afafine community many reports they will not use the bathrooms in their workplace and will wait till then return home. Many shared they will “hold it in” until they can find a “safe” bathroom. When made to use the wrong bathrooms, transgenders, or the Fa’afafine community suffer the most risk of sexual violence. It is imperative our community learn more about our other gender, the Fa’afafine community. Let’s look at our communities and tailor policies to meet our needs.
Every April, the Nation brings attention to (SAAM) - Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This movement is spearheaded by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and consists of multiple efforts to educate and engage the public in issues surrounding sexual assault. This year marks the 22nd anniversary of SAAM which means officially it has not be around for very long however, the fight for rights for people of color, women’s rights, and other social activism efforts have all made conversations around sexual assault and domestic violence more possible and have definitely played an integral role in promoting justice and change where needed. The theme of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2023 is “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity.” Photo Credits: NSVRC This theme ties in really well with the history surrounding sexual assault in that sexual violence is often fought hand in hand with ending systems of oppression. There we have our drawn connections. Systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, and others can contribute to higher rates of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. Prevention is often seen as the greatest way to reduce the risk of harm, and really a safer way to approach potential or prospective problems. Therefore the message that is being expressed is really that we cannot end sexual assault or violence without also addressing the unequal treatment of populations within our communities, to be truly immune, exempt, free, or safe from sexual violence, we have to be fair, just, honest, and value one another
Written by: Karallyn Fitisone
In American Samoa, several women have celebrated and posted to social media about International Women’s Day and Month. Throughout the Rural Grant Project we bring awareness to gender-based violence particularly that which is against our fa’afafine community. We have gathered insight about their experiences of violence and experiences of accessing services with the ultimate hope to create awareness and advocacy for our fa’afafine that might in turn decrease discrepancies or barriers to care for fa’afafine. We recognize and understand that there are still areas for improvement to cater to the needs of women and fa’afafine on island but are hopeful that through projects such as these, we can continue to have important conversations that can lead to positive change and more equity and inclusion for ALL Women (including our fa’afafine sisters). Follow along to the Alliance Social Media Pages or on the Alliance website to keep updated on Rural Project progress. As we continue to celebrate women this month, may we also honor our fa’afafine sisters!
Sources : https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/01/04/fight-womens-rights-fight-against-authoritarianism
Written by: Karallyn Fitisone
The Rural Grant Project seeks to investigate and understand the fa’afafine experiences of
violence. This can further be broken down into examining their help-seeking behaviors, types of
violence they’re experiencing, feelings towards service providers, etc. Data was collected on the
fa’afafine experience over the span of several months in 2022 and 2021. This was made possible
through collaboration and partnership between the Alliance and the Society of Fa’afafines in
American Samoa (SOFIAS). In late 2022 the second phase of the project began, in which service
providers would be recruited to participate in the study. These service providers were recruited
from various sectors including various private, non-profit, or government entities.
Please note that this writing is based on personal understanding and experiences, which
means the writing will contain estimates, opinions, and assumptions that are my own, and to my
understanding. Over the course of 3 months, over 50+ service providers have been contacted,
over 50% of those service providers became aware of the project, over 20 have participated in
the survey and 16 have participated in the interview portion of the project. I was able to engage
and connect with many of our service providers about the project which in itself I view as a
success, because this project was made aware to a larger audience through discussions and
emails. I definitely am very appreciative of all the time that our service providers have invested
in the project. I see the hard work they do in their respective fields and the passion that they have
to better our community. I definitely do see that the service providers are willing to undertake
any training we put out in regard to our fa’afafine population and serving any of them who are
victims of violence. I can see that growth is taking place within our community, as we begin to
accept, adapt, accommodate, tolerate, and include newer ideas and perspectives into our lives. I
have been privileged to be a part of the process that seeks to enhance and increase the quality of
service provision to fa’afafine victims of violence. I look forward to the remainder of the project
and to what develops from our findings.
I have experienced some challenges primarily in recruitment. I understand there are
factors that may have influenced participation in our surveys and interviews. Communication
was a challenge in that some of the contact information was outdated for some service providers
and or organizations. Other issues include a lack of response. This can be due to a variety of
reasons, but in general because of the delayed or lack of responses, this has led to cancellations
or to not followed through interviews with service providers. I also understand that our service
providers are busy and may not have the time to participate in the project. I also recognize that
the administration of the survey was during the time of year that consists of major holidays and
or break for some of our service providers. These factors definitely have made it harder to
achieve our intended goal number of participants, but nonetheless we have achieved a larger
goal, which was to spread awareness of the project. Even with these challenges, we are confident
in the information we have gathered and the positive responses and feedback from our
community and service providers about the work of our rural team.
I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to work on this project with such a great
team! I am so glad with all the networking I have been able to accomplish and to learn about the
work that our service providers are doing for victims of violence. It is refreshing to know that
they are willing to participate in training if it becomes available to them. I also think this project
has allowed me to reflect on the ways that I can be more of an advocate, or an ally for fa’afafine.
I can also reflect on the ways I can nurture diversity and promote inclusivity. I believe this
project is an excellent start for examining and investigating our marginalized communities in
American Samoa, as it pertains to violence.
Coming Soon: Our team is so excited to be creating a space on the Alliance website for the Rural
Project! On this separate page, we plan to have our PSAs posted, links to our podcast episodes,
articles/newsletter additions, gallery, and more! We hope that this page helps to serve as a place
where community members, alliance followers, and those interested, can learn more about the
Rural grant project, the work that we do, and the things we are passionate about!
Reminder: Please follow along to any of the alliance social media pages and or check in to the
alliance website and newsletter for updates and rural project progress! Check out our podcast on
spotify “Falalalaga Podcast” updated twice monthly. Feel free to contact the Alliance with any
questions, suggestions, or concerns you might have in regard to this project.
Photo: retrieved from Society of Fa'afafine in American Samoa (SOFIAS) facebookpage: https://www.facebook.com/168150006613160/photos/pb.100070244640816.-2207520000./4629225017172281/?type=3