A letter to my sister before her TED Talk

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Dearest Jody,

fotuWhen I first heard that you have been selected after a lengthy competitive process to be one of the featured TEDx Talkers in Tauranga this weekend. I was pleasantly surprised. I was surprised not because it was unexpected, but rather that you have delved so deeply into the cultural values instilled in us by  Tuisafua. You were selected to share the fagogo, an art that is so truly treasured and revered deep within the hearts and minds of every single one of our female ancestors. Your pursuit of this cultural art form is truly inspiring and no doubt brings deep pride to our mother.

This is the culmination of all those years of listening to our elders as they talk into the night, negotiating the intricacies of family fa’alavelaves, of folding, folding, running, walking, sitting and never missing a step while holding the ietoga in the early hours of the morning, in the late hours of the nights, in every conceivable location on the rugged island of Salafai. This is the culmination of our ancestors hopes for us, to continue the practice of the Fa’asamoa and to hold true to our language. This here, is us.

As you prepare for your talk and as you spiritually and physically focus on your fagogo, know that we are praying for you, a prayer that our ancestors prayed before war, a prayer of good intentions, a prayer of good will and deep meaningful hope for any warrior or chief as they face a challenge. This is you Jody, you, like many before you, like many that will follow, carrying the torch for the Fa’aSamoa and for all things Samoan.

On a more serious note, you are fucking amazing, and I am so proud of you, and this opportunity that you have pursued and will use as an avenue to create more awareness about our culture.

As someone whom you once tried to drown and whom had to eat all your guava scraps as you were the better climber in our childhood, I salute you sister, this is your moment, go forth and shine bright like a diamond 😉

You are the mother of Moelagi and Tuifiti, o lou taimi lenei.

Make use proud

Love,

Matou Uma.

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O le tusi a Lagipoiva ia Tupaimatuna I le alo atu I le TEDx Tauraga

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Tupai,

Ina ua ou logo tala I luga o upega tafailagi ua tofia oe e avea ma se failauga I le fonotaga o le TEDx I Tauraga i Niu Sila, ou te ta’utino atu lava, na fa’ateia a’u. E le’I o’o lava so’u manatu o le a tofia oe I lenei ituaiga fa’asoa, aua e pei lava e tele lou tomai ma lou naunautaiga I failauga a papalagi, e pei ona iai lou tofi I le taimi nei, I le Iunivesete Aoao fa’a Tekinolosi o Aukilani. Ae fa’apea, o lo’u te’I, o se te’i fiafia ma se te’I fa’ane’ene’e ona ua ausia e seisi lava o lo’u lava tino, e puna mai i le Tuisafua, le na fa’amoemoe iai le Tagaloa, i lenei tulaga.

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O lou ausia o lenei fa’atasiga failauga Fa’aperetania o se la’asaga maoa’e ma matagofie. O se la’asaga e tatau ma ono iai le fa’aeaea a le Tuisafua, le Va’asili, le Tevaga, le Tauo, le Leilua, le Toleafoa, le Tupai, le Lealali ma le Sao. E ono iai le sa’asa’a fa’a Tausala a le Masina Sao, le Iliganoa fa’apea ma le Lagipoiva.

 

O le tofia o oe e avea ma leo e momoli atu ai le lauusiusi o tala tu’u a le tatou atunu’u, ua manino mai ai le auga tonu lava na fa’ae’e atu ai e Tuisafua le Tupaimatuna ia te oe. O oe o le alo o Lealali ma le Malelegaaletoelau, o oe na e tala gafa I Toga na tupuga mai ai le Vaasiliifiti. O oe o Tupaimatuna, le o le a fa’aleoina talatu’u ma tala o le vavau.

O oe lava o le toa, ua e fa’amitamitaina lenei tagata I au aga. Atonu e fa’atusa lenei sagisagi atu I le fiafia a le manu ua tau atu I se fuga o se la’au, e fa’atusa i le sulugia o le ao ina ua pai atu I ave o le la I le taeao po.

Ia alo atu ia ou faiva aua le fa’alauaiteleina o le iloa ma le malamalama o tagata lautele o le atu Pasefika, ma le lalolagi atoa I lenei tomai o le fai fago’go.  O oe o le tina o Moelagi ma le Tuifiti, o toa ia e teu fatu I lou loto a’o e alo atu i au sauniuniga.

Ia tafetoto ou ala.

Ia fa’agaganaina oe

Ia tu Ieova I lo ta va.

 

Uso,

O ou mama na.

Malo le fa’aeaea aiga.

 

Statement from Samoa Fa’afafine Association

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Talofa SFA Inc Supporters,

Today a crime of violence was committed against faafafines and faafatamas who identify as transgender living in Samoa.
One of our sisters and aiga, Jeanine, committed suicide.
And the Samoa Observer no only took a picture of her in her final moments suspended in the church hall and published it in the paper print, they wrote an article that misgendered Jeanine and ripped any remnants of humanity from her corpse.
Samoa Observer knew she was transgender, but they chose the path of violence and abuse under the guise of “reporting the truth, and facts”.
Jeanine deserved better than the violence perpetrated against her at her most weakest moments as a human being.
Violence against her and her most basic of human rights. That is what the Samoa Obeserver front page paper edition committed today.
Violence using words. Violence using her image at death.
And they did it without laying a finger through their malice masquerading as human interest and journalistic ethics.
Samoa Observer deconstructed her persona.
They dehumanised her.
Their real intention and the message they are sending is that they wanted to portray Jeanine in the light of a liar and a deceiver.
Her attire was female. Her appearance was female. So they decided to show her for who they believed her to be who they think she really was.
That was their violent attack on her corpse.
As she passed from this world, the last autonomy and right she had to present herself as her chosen gender, Samoa Observer ripped that from her.
Samoa Observer page 1 article and the words used, and the image of Jeanine is hurtful and as a trans woman from Samoa, I feel delegitimized, hurt, angry, and violated.
Samoa Observer wanted to show its readers that it know us not only better than we do, but knows the ‘real’ us.
If no-one ever told you, Samoa Observer management and publisher, Aunty Muliagatele Jean Ash Malifa, misgendering is violence. Misgendering perpetuates violence.
It is a deliberate act to cause harm, pain, and suffering. Intentionally misgendering someone is what people do when they cannot enact violence upon a person psychically.
Samoa Observer are no better than the homophobic and transphobic citizens who practice vile and hate towards an already marginalised sector of Samoan society.
I am one of the many Jeanines that at our weakest and lowest, have battled with suicide because of this hompphobia.
Rest in Love and Peace Jeanine. I and the Samoa Faafafine Association Incorporated recognise you. We see you for who you were. And we will not stop until this violence against all faafafine and faafatama has stopped.

‪#‎beautifuljeanine‬
‪#‎MyNameIsJeanine‬ ‪#‎IWillNotDieInVain‬

Tuisina Ymania Brown-Gabriel on behalf of the Samoa Faafafine Association.

Why the Samoa Observer frontpage is an ethical violation

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My news-feed was burning with extremely irritated readers of the Samoa Observer today. Emotions ranged from anger, sympathy, dismay and disgust. Those who expressed their views included lawyers, doctors, atheists, Christians, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, friends, family and many many many more of differing backgrounds and cultures who all saw the front page and expressed their negative feelings.

What was the front page? The picture is as follows, accompanied by a headline that stated “Suicide in a Church Hall”. Here are the reasons this story, photo and headline combo are extremely unethical and essential is a case of human rights violation for the victim and family.

13435293_10153783146087098_7722585940198015110_nWhat is most unfortunate about this story is that the Editor of Samoa Observer wrote an editorial yesterday demanding the nation to have sympathy for Samoa Observers battles some twenty years ago – yet today victimizes a human being right on the front page. Hypocrisy is a very very ugly trait.

Here’s some ethical violations by Samoa Observer in publishing that story – and statements by members of the public who agree with it.

A journalist’s first and foremost obligation is to the truth as every journalist, no matter how famous or unknown wields a
great amount of power and influence in 10626797_810413775727106_4992917387696069224_nshaping public opinion.

  • Journalism exists to serve the interests of the people and to provide them with accurate, reliable information required to function in a society. This story did not serve the interest of people. No information in here was verified by authorities – it is heresay based on what a “friend” said and on a photo found on Facebook. There is no proof that she committed suicide – it is pure allegations – there was no statement from Authorities to confirm the cause of death, name of victim or even time and location of incident.
  • Journalisms primary purpose and objective can be expressed most appropriately through the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) mission statement: ‘inform, educate and entertain’. Some would add “influence” as part of the main objectives. It is very clear that this story does not achieve any of these objectives – as this is not informative, educational, “entertaining” but I will say this, it does “influence.
  • Publishing details of suicide is a huge breech of journalism ethics the world over – BBC, CNN, AP, AFP, WSJ – all publications I have contributed to will NEVER EVER publish details let alone a picture of a suicide. Because there is a social responsibility and ethical violation tied to detailing suicide – it triggers what is well known in the industry as “copycat suicide” – meaning if someone has suicidal tendencies and sees this picture, it will prompt them to commit suicide. It also introduces the concept to young readers, vulnerable populations and so forth. Essentially it is “influencing” people to seeing suicide as an option. Yeah – good going Samoa Observer – very very wise of you to do this.
  • Respect for the victim. There are two schools of journalism that are quite distinct in nature. 1. Broadsheet (real journalism that abides by ethics etc.) and Tabloid – which takes a very brutal approach to stories without regard for ethics. This type of story belongs on a tabloid as it disregards the rights of the victim, families and friends. It does not respect the societal value placed on the victim.
  • Fa’asamoa. The practice of journalism is circumstantial – so in countries which have certain cultural norms – these are observed on the pages of its national daily. For Samoa – o le ava fatafata ma le tofa, are just some which in this case should have been observed. The victim is no doubt borne of Chiefs and cultural figures who deserve all due respect within the realms of the Fa’aSamoa. By publishing this picture – the newspaper disregards these fundamental values that are unique to Samoa.
  • Gender referencing: GG on FB was correct to point out that the victim was identified as a man and second referenced as a man. How very said that in death this poor soul is not given her desired identity.
  • Finally – where the hell is common decency? This is a human being in a small society. We should know better.

Statements by Samoans on Facebook on this.

Samoa Observer- you stupid, insensitive assholes. You showed that you don’t care about LGBTQ as the photo you published on the front page and the pronoun you used for her just reinforces the abuse, insensitively and hate our brothers and sisters who identify as LGBT go through. Poor Jeanine deserves respect and decency, even her death you mistreat her with this “other-ing” piece. You are merchants of hate, no matter what your self absorbed freedom of the press cliches are. – GG

Was it necessary to put that picture of Jaenine Tuivaki on the front page of the paper hanging from the rafters of a Church Hall. Yes she is a transgender person, but where is the respect for the dead….she is a Suli of Samoa, Suli of Aiga, Suli of a mum and a dad….I am disgusted at the lack of Respect for this human being. Would this be done to a person who was not a faafafine? Jaenine was someones child, someones sibling, someones love. Journalism without any respect is what this is. – MM

NOT A SUICIDE.
“SUNDAY SAMOA” IS INSENSITIVE AND DISRESPECTFUL OF THE DEAD.
Judging for what is on their front page today, this newspaper is only after money at all cost. It makes no sense to me to have a picture of a dead person strung up. This person has friends & relatives who love him very much. Even if he is dead he still should be respected
That picture suggests murder NOT suicide – PP

Just utterly disgraceful, inexcusable, totally unprofessional, and gives ammunition to those who want greater controls on the media for other purposes, to shut down political criticism or investigations into corruption. Media ethics classes will study this outrage for years to come as it’s an awful example of how to absolutely NOT report these kinds of stories. – Mark Hayes, Journlism Professor and Expert

Really?!? Is this what it’s come down to?!? Instead of rushing to get her down, they take a photo of her? And reaaaally Observer? Where is the dignity respect and love that Jeanine so desperately needed in life that she also deserved in death?! Where can one write complaints about this? Can they be sued? Tasteless and disgusting – FT

Whatever speck of respect I once had for Samoa Observer is now all but lost! Insensitive & disrespctful are understatements. This family should take legal action against SO! – AS

To reverse the negativity in the departure of this beautiful soul, let’s hashtag #beautifuljeanine

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Photos: FB, PP, GG.

Why the National Council of Churches should be banned

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NCC Secretary, Rev Ma'auga MotuAs a citizen of Samoa and a member of EFKS who is a member of the NCC, I urge the Prime Minister of Samoa to ban the National Council of Churches by ordering it to be dismantled and de-established. I also urge that the Secretary of the NCC be the first to be prosecuted under the new legislation by using terms and suggestions that incite violence. In his infinite wisdom the Secretary has urged the ban of a religious sect or denomination. That suggestion not only disregards a fundamental human right to freedom of religion it is also ill-conceived and stupid.

With about 1.7 billion followers or 23% of the global population, Islam is the second-largest religion by number of adherents, so when you suggest we ban Islam from Samoa, you are also saying that the followers are not welcome here, which is not only divisive, discriminatory but also a quite un-Christian move on your part.

Rev Ma’auga Motu, you said  “We are still wanting our own people to be prevented from this kind of influence, even though there are so many people who are good people but still there are some dangerous people among them who might come and threaten our peace.”

Dear sir, if you want to go down that route, let’s discuss the “dangerous” people within your very own denomination, let’s discuss also the various influences it has brought upon our people, the shunning of pregnant teens, the beating of youth in the EFKS, the affairs of Church Ministers with members, the continuous financial burden placed by the Church on its poor members, the burning of houses as a result of Church disputes, the marginalization of the poor who can’t afford contributions, the entrenched misogynistic hierarchy within the Church and so so so so many more incidences of negative influences as a result of your Church. So, if you want to ban Islam on the basis of negative influences, then let’s ban EFKS as well.

Sadly, I understand your ignorance. You don’t know any better, you were indoctrinated without choice, you don’t know about Freedom of Religion, you believe solely in your own and none-other. Thank God you are not the Prime Minister. We would be utterly fucked if you were.

 

 

If you said “No” and he still does it, it’s rape

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One of my aunties shared a story of how she had her first sexual experience when she was 19. Now in her 50s, she said her boyfriend a much older man at the time, too her to his house, locked her in a room and she tried to run away, and he carried her to the bed and “had sex” with her. She said it hurt, but that was the first time she had sex.

There was never a point in the conversation where she said she doubted the process of having sex for the first time in that manner, there was no doubt in her mind that the way it happened to her is the way it happens to everyone and that it was the norm to be forced to have sex by your boyfriend.

She is not the only female to share this kind of story with me. I have spoken to three other women who shared the same story, that they tried to escape and their partner held them down and had sex with them. To these women, this was how it was supposed to happen.

FYI my dear Samoan sisters, if you say no to a guy, if you run away or have any doubts about wanting sex, it means ‘NO’ and by ‘NO’ I mean he is not to force you to have sexual intercourse under any circumstances against your will.

This series is called:

Sefulu Ono Lesona Fa’atatau i Sauaga i Totonu o Aiga

 

 

When you edit men out of Pacific Leaders Forum this is what you get

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Have you noticed how there are no women Prime Ministers or Presidents in the Pacific? Earlier this week as part of their #MoreWomen feminist campaign Elle magazine put together this clip to highlight the lack of ladies in leadership. The clip can be found here. To illustrate this trend in the Pacific, Sefulu Ono Aso did a bit of amateur editing and came up with the following photos. Both are official photos from Pacific Leaders Forum, which is made up of leaders of Pacific Island Forum countries. What we see when men are edited out, well, are picture backgrounds 🙂 So what does this call for? Obviously #MoreWomen in Pacific leadership is what 🙂

No Politics

photo 2