Samoan trip by Rachael (Reflection six)

There is always something to learn when you travel and work in an overseas destination, especially one such as the island of Samoa. I visited (with students) Women in Business in Apia today, which was set up on 1991. We had an awesome introduction to this organisation by the Executive Director (Adimaimalaga Tafunai).

Weaving a plate Apia

What a wonderful organisation that supports Samoan women (in rural) areas to support their families, pay for education and other important economic opportunities. Samoan is not poor in the sense of not having enough food to feed children and families but rather it is ‘poor of opportunity’ such as employment and education for all. Women in Business is slowly helping to fill these gaps buy selling organic foods, materials, cultural weaved mats and cosmetic items (both locally and internationally) on behalf of women in Samoa.

I was thoroughly impressed with the welcoming nature of this Non Government Company (NGO) and to be eager with hosting our Swinburne students in the future for short term placement activities. The staff (Gillian Stewart) who is from Australia and now living in Samoa and working for Women in Business) showed us the factory where coconut oil is manufactured via its pressing station and the various future ideas that will soon turn into a reality. For instance, Women in Business will soon build a factory that will also house an education centre to support Samoan community members to receive organic certification to act as officers. This will allow Samoan organic officers to monitor and evaluate Samoan farms to provide the owners with organic certification (NASA).

Interestingly, Women in Business sells the Samoan coconut oil to the UK Body Shop, which has now just recently been sold to L’Oreal. What a huge undertaking. The Body Shop approached Women in Business due to their Interest in organic materials for cosmetic creams and lotions that are of a high quality and organically certified with the added bonus of the social impact this particular NGO is having on the community. The organic ingredients such as coconut oil are becoming high demand items internationally.

My aspiration is to see Swinburne students take an active role with this NGO and in the near future by completing short term placement activities where students’ skills and their university experience can be used to help brainstorm ideas, collaborate and share knowledge with the Samoan community for improving opportunities.

Written by Dr Rachael Hains-Wesson