A young leader in Samoa has been recognized for her work using traditional Samoan mat weaving or fala masi to empower unemployed women. Petronilla Molio’o Mataeliga, who’s from the village of Faleapuna, is Samoa’s 2018 winner of the Queen’s Young Leaders award. She took over from her grandmother to lead the Fala Masi Revival Project.
National statistics show nine per cent of women in Samoa are out of work and Ms. Mataeliga says learning new skills such as handicraft can give them more financial independence.
“We are going through a very hard phase with teenage pregnancy, so a lot of dropouts. My mother and also my aunties that are involved in the Faleapuna committee, they try to bring all the young women in, give them something to learn and at the same time they can provide for their families,” said Petronilla Molio’o Mataeliga.
Traditional Samoan arts and crafts is one of the unique aspects of Samoa’s culture. However, some of these traditions have been slowly fading away, which is why the Faleapuna’s Women’s Committee initiated the revival of the fala-masi. Falamasi is a unique type of mat which is particularly made by the women of Faleapuna.
The revival is driven by their inspiration to ‘Uphold our culture, heritage and traditions.” In an interview with the President of the Women’s Committee, Mulipola Anarosa Molio’o, she said that the fala-masi was what made Faleapuna known back in days past. “This was because Faleapuna is the only village who know how to make this type of mat.”
Mulipola articulated that making fala-masi was a leisure pursuit their fore-mothers used to do when they were still alive. “Many of our present generation, witnessed how passionate they were with making the mats and how fast they could do it.” The skills were then passed on down from generation to generation through.
However, the women of Faleapuna stopped making fala-masi when the government enforced the making of the traditional Samoan Fine mat [ie sae], said Mulipola. “But it is time to bring back this type of cultural practice which belongs to our village. Our mothers and grandmothers worked so hard to maintain and uphold this tradition and we don’t want to let it die out. That is why we are reviving the making of Falamasi so that we can also teach our daughters and children about such skills and also it can be a great way for our Women’s Committee to earn money.”
Mulipola continued, “The different women in the Women’s Committee come up with their own designs and they are very creative. Therefore we want to encourage our women, young and old to continue on with this kind of work. This is our gift from God and we want to uphold it and maintain it.”