How to Be a Successful Woman Leader? ADB Asked Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister Mata’afa

Article | 26 March 2018

Samoa Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa shares the Pacific island country’s experience in advancing the role of women in decision making.

Samoa Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa successfully thrives in the world of politics and the unique social structure of Samoa. She shares with ADB her observations in such circumstances and other insights as a woman leader.

Do you have advice for future women leaders?

What I do say to women who are interested is that they need to be engaged in the processes, engaged in the particular sectors that they are in. Politics is representing a whole lot of things. So whether you come from a village, a rural sector like me, or whether you are a professional woman, whether you are a farmer, you have to be engaged in that sector to gain platform and begin to build your skill in the areas of your interest because that is really what representation and politics is all about. And get a handle on what exactly governance is. Governance is important, makes things work or not work.

“Claim what is yours because you’ve worked for it, because it’s part of the system to which you play a role and a function.”

So have an interest in that and gain as much exposure, look for work.

But the world is becoming a lot more global so you really have to build your knowledge and know how to operate in that context as well.

Claim what is yours because you’ve worked for it, because it’s part of a system to which you have contributed, to which you play a role and a function. But I think this whole claiming thing, there’s an element of entitlement in it as well. I think we have to be very careful about that line between entitlement and claiming what is rightly yours.

What role do women play in managing climate change?

Climate change action is around mitigating or adapting and it’s where people live. So, how communities respond, is very critical. So, in Samoa and in the Pacific, you will find that a lot of the action is being taken by women.

Now the whole thing about voice, I went to the last COP in Bonn and this seemed to be an issue where women’s voices are not heard. But I have to say in Samoa, the way that our society is structured, and the functions and the roles that women play, they are very integral to what’s happening in terms of how they affect their lives.

Women’s representation is so low in the Pacific, but in terms of action, it’s all women, mostly women. And that’s really important. And actually, doing and achieving is a form of voice.

How do you promote gender equality in Samoa?

In employment legislation there were particular provisions for women. So you keep an eye out for them. But interestingly enough too, it has cultural elements, in terms of protections for women. It’s quite funny in that context the men are very supportive, “Oh yes, we have to make sure the women are safe.”

“Fortunately for the Pacific, we don’t have the pay equity issues that seems to be prevalent, ironically, in more developed countries ”

And fortunately for the Pacific, we don’t have the pay equity issues that seems to be prevalent, ironically, in more developed countries. I don’t know whether it’s because we came into the modern economy as a new nation and everyone just got paid the same. Thankfully it’s not an issue because it’s one of the ongoing and contentious issues. In this day and age, I find it totally baffling why would it still happen.