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Once again Tualauta faipule Vui is the only woman in the Fono

Tualauta Representative Vui Florence Vaili Saulo, the only female in the Legislature.  [Courtesy photo]
Women are a part of the Fono, whether some male colleagues like it or not

Tualauta faipule Vui Florence Vaili Saulo acknowledges the pressure she faces on a daily basis being in the legislature where men dominate, as she is the only woman. In a sit down interview with Vui in Apia, she told Samoa News of her experience when she was first sworn into office as a Tualauta lawmaker, saying she not only had to observe as a first timer, but because she was a female in a man’s arena, she also had to learn her way around her male colleagues.

Vui first won one of the seats for Tualauta County, they have two, four years ago. It is American Samoa’s most populated county. At the time, she was the only woman in the Legislature, but was joined two years later by another female, Atalina Asifoa. “However this next two years, it’s back to just me — and it was nice to have a female companion in the Fono.”

She said that she feels the pressure everyday that she’s somewhat not welcomed only because she’s a woman in a man’s arena.

Vui explained that she understands why things are the way they are in the Fono, saying it goes back to the Bible where it originates that “women are advisors and that men are in command… and it’s also in our culture.”

The Tualauta faipule said the concept is still there where women are “faletua” (ministers wives) and all they are supposed to do is advise, and it’s the men that do all the decision making, but that mindset needs to stop.

Vui told Samoa News that she’s also mindful of the concept in the Pacific Islands and the world that women are trying to make their way into what was created by men. She said that there are times in the Fono that she’s emotional and to men it’s a sign of weakness but it’s not, it’s another form in expressing the passion you have for the work you do as a faipule.

She said another reason she’s easily emotional is because her constituents have had to face these road issues long before she came in office and “I feel for them, I understand what they are going through.”

According to Vui, women have equal rights as men; and noted that women in top positions all over the world indicate that women are as equal as men. She said she is very proud of the female directors that are confirmed by the Fono. “Whenever they come in for a confirmation hearing, the first thing I do, is commend them for taking up the challenge — as we are women — while I know my colleagues are not so happy about it. There are a few men that really don’t want women in the Legislature.” (She did not specify which men she’s referencing.

Vui said she’s very proud of the women who take up top positions in the government and in companies. 

Of her own experience as a woman faipule, Vui says she has had to earn the respect of her colleagues in the Fono; and that there are a few who are still in denial that women are now part of the legislature — whether they like it or not