Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa (Credit: Programme de leadership dans le Pacifique)

 

Women and Adversity:
21st Century Women
Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa
Prime Minister of Samoa

I don’t know anyone who’s been to Samoa, called the “Cradle of Polynesia.” It’s an island in the central South Pacific and lies about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, nearly 7,000 miles from where I live in North Carolina. That country’s April 9, 2021 election is reminiscent of the 2020 election in the U.S.

The Prime Minister of Samoa had held that post for 22 years, but he didn’t want to give it up. He ordered Parliament be locked so Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, the first woman elected Prime Minister in Samoa, couldn’t enter and be sworn in. However, the Samoan Constitution stipulates Parliament meet within 45 days of the election, and May 24, 2021 was that day. Mata’afa took the oath of office under a tent in front of Parliament, thereby upholding the Constitution.   

One reason Malielegaoi didn’t want to give up power was that the election was tied until the one independent candidate swung his vote to Mata’afa. Malielegaoi then had his electoral commissioner appoint another candidate, so the score was tied again, and he had another official announce new elections were to be held. The Supreme Court ruled against both orders, so Mata’afa, was officially proclaimed the winner. Malielegaoi didn’t concede until July 26, 2021.

Mata’afa Bio:

  • Born April 29, 1957 in Apia, the capital of Samoa
  • Attended Samuel Marsden Collegiate School, a private school for girls in a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Claimed her father’s title—Fiamē—in 1976. Samoan society is organized by family, and each family has its own title connected to areas of the country. She is chiefess (leader) over Lotofaga village on Samoa’s main island, Upol.
  • Graduated from Wellington’s Victoria University in 1979 with a major in political science
  • Her father was the first Prime Minister of Samoa, which won its independence from New Zealand in 1962.
  • Not married

Career:

  • 1985, elected to the Legislative Assembly of Samoa, representing the constituency of Lotofaga, previously held by her mother
  • 1991-2006, Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, becoming the first woman Cabinet member
  • 2006-2011, Minister of Women
  • 2011-2016, Minister of Justice and Courts Administration
  • 2016-2020, Deputy Prime Minister, the first woman to hold the post, and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
  • 2016-2020, Deputy leader of the HRPP, Human Rights Protection Party
  • 2021-present, joined the FAST (Faatuatua i Le Atua Samoa ua Tasi) party, in opposition to the Land and Titles Bill. Unanimously elected its leader in March 2021
  • April, 2021, elected Prime Minister, installed May 24, 2021

Learn more about her:

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa: Samoa’s First Woman Prime Minister – YouTube
Fiame Naomi Mata’afa legally recognised, ending months of political stalemate | The World – YouTube
Samoa’s first female leader has made history — now she faces a challenging future at home and abroad (theconversation.com)

Let me know what you know about Samoa.

 

Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published three ebooks in 2020: Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women; Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers; and Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. These books are meant to be study guides for all students from grade school through college to help in choosing topics for assignments and to learn more about these noteworthy women. Go to amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and goodreads.com to learn more.

  1. Susan Friedberg says:

    Jo Ann, what an accomplished career you’ve had! I so enjoy seeing your work. Congratulations on a life well lived! I like to say I knew you when.

    All best,
    Susan Lerner Friedberg

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