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Archived News: November 2020

From Fiji Times (9 November 2020)

On dry land – the mamasa

By Theresa Fox

Lyn Lala (left) and Theresa Fox (right) welcomed to Rotuma with the Mamasa.
Picture: Theresa Fox

Jiuria Visoni anointed our heads with coconut oil and sprayed us with a sweet-scented perfume. Soon after, she garlanded us with the tefui.

All the while, we sat on five layers of fine Rotuman mat feeling royal. Such is the mamasa.

From far away we had come, a team from the Institute of Mission and Research of the Pacific Theological College in Suva.

We are on Rotuma to carry out a Leadership and Management Training with the Methodist Church of Rotuma.

According to Rotuman tradition, our feet is wet from traversing hundreds of miles of ocean to reach Rotuma. But now that we are on dry land, our feet needs drying. A chant broke out, 'Marie, Marie' Marie!'

The herald, Inisimo Konau Managreve was calling everyone to hush. 'Gou tala usiafua!' (I'm going to speak). 'Mamiag forau te' (You have come over the sea.

I am according you our welcome mamasa),' he said looking at us.

His hands rested on coconut leaf baskets filled with earth-oven roasted pork, taro, and ikou he'e (Octopus and taro leaves baked in thick coconut cream) and fruits in season.

This time it was watermelons and pineapples.

Managreve hails from Savlei Village in Itutiu District.

He called out the names of the Rotuman mats that constituted the Paega.

The paega is the term for the layer of Rotuman mats we sat on. 'Agruama,' he said, first calling out the big Rotuman mat that lies at the bottom of the layer.

Then, 'eape ma'on faua,' he called out again the second Rotuman mat that was second on the layer. And then the 'apei' which is a fine Rotuman mat at the top of the layer.

A pink silken cloth covered the apei.

The paega is the most significant aspect of the mamasa. Managreve told us the paega represents the Rotuman community. Once a visitor sits on the paega, she is now welcomed into the folds of the community.

Considered a Rotuman, with the blessings and protection of the hanua (the land).

She can go about the island like a Rotuman without fear. The mamasa is a traditional ceremony Rotumans perform for all visitors to the island.

It's like the Fijian I-taukei 'vakamamaca' performed for a person after a sea voyage or long overseas trip.

The word mamasa refers to the act of drying a wet person.

The tradition dates back to the days of Rotuman ancestors who spent many days out at sea, fishing.

On their return home, those waiting perform the mamasa ceremony to wash away the salt from their bodies.

To reciprocate the kindness, the fishermen distributed the fish they caught.

The most significant aspects of the mamasa is the paega, the tefui, and the act of anointing with oil.

'Without the paega there is no mamasa,' said Managreve.

The seven stars of the tefui, made from the fan palm, represents the seven districts of Rotuma – Itu'ti'u, Oinafa, Noatau, Malha'a, Juju, Pepjei and Itu'muta.

'It means once you are welcome into the seven districts,' Managreve added.

Smelling beautiful and feeling welcome, we dug into a feast of the delicious earth-oven roasted food and fruits from the baskets.

Our feet is dry. We are in the eyes of the land, Rotuman!

Theresa Fox is the communications officer for the Institute of Mission and Research at the Pacific Theological College.

From Radio New Zealand (25 November 2020)

Youth and Women get voice on Rotuma's Council of Chiefs

Representation for youth and women has been boosted on Rotuma's Council of Chiefs.

The new opportunities arose out of a youth development workshop that took place in the islands that are part of Fiji this month.

Broderick Mervyn adressing chiefs
Broderick Mervyn, Team Leader of the Project addressing the Rotuman Chiefs. Photo: Supplied

Youth, women groups and community leaders shared experiences and learned about sustainable development goals, or SDGs, and human rights practices as a tool to promote and achieve a sustainable future for their community.

The highlight of the event was reactivating the Council of Women's seat and creating a seat for the Rotuma Youth Council in the Council of Chiefs.

The workshop brought together more than 50 participants from the seven districts in Rotuma.

It represented the Pacific Community's (SPC) first partnership in Rotuma with youth-led organisations such as Ignite4Change and Pacific Youth Forum Against Corruption.

The workshop was part of the SPC's Pacific Youth and Covid-19 Recovery and Response Programme.

The talanoa also highlighted the Rotuma youth Covid-19 Recovery Response plan.

Director of SPC's Human Rights and Social Development Division, Miles Young, said at least half the region's population was aged under 23.

"Harnessing the talents of young people will have a significant impact on the economic prosperity, political success and social stability in the Pacific Islands region into the future," Young said.

"To ensure lasting and sustainable change for a prosperous Pacific, the involvement and participation of young people is crucial in positively influencing mindsets and attitudes towards gender equality and environmental sustainability."

Ignite4Change Coordinator, Broderick Mervyn, acknowledged the SPC for partnering with their group and creating opportunities for youth in the Pacific.

"Community participation helps youth become empathetic citizens who could potentially continue similar work when they become adults.

"Additionally, youth who give back to their communities develop leadership skills, learn the importance of helping, and gain work experience," Mervyn said.

From The Pacific Community (15 November 2020)

Rotuman youth

Rotuma’s Youth hold the keys to a sustainable future

Youth, women's groups and community leaders from around Rotuma were given the opportunity to share experiences and learn about sustainable development goals (SDGs) and human rights practices as a tool to promote and achieve a sustainable future for their community.

The workshop was the first of its kind to be held in Rotuma. Entitled 'Active Youth Participation for Community Development', it was part of the Pacific Community's (SPC) Pacific Youth and COVID-19 Recovery and Response Programme. The Programme's three components include Youth Social Enterprise (Youth SENT), Youth Volunteers in the Pacific (Youth ViP), and Capacity Development Support and Intergenerational Dialogue and Learning.

The workshop was a collaboration between the SPC's Human Rights and Social Development (HRSD) division and Ignite4Change youth group and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand.

As the activity was SPC's first engagement in Rotuma, it was important to first learn the community's needs, resources, and challenges. The workshop provided a platform for the Rotuman elders, non-government actors, government representatives in Rotuma, women and, most importantly, young people to discuss ways of working together and contributing to the development of the community.

The workshop brought together more than fifty participants from all the districts in Rotuma.

Key highlights for the Council of Women and the Youth Council included the opportunity to talanoa with the Council of Chiefs, reactivate the Council of Women's seat and create a seat for the Rotuma Youth Council in the Council of Chief. The talanoa also highlighted the Rotuma youth COVID-19 Recovery Response plan.

For Panapasa Ivi, a health officer in Rotuma, the event allowed Rotuma elders and youth groups to harness relationships, share and better understand each other on adolescent health challenges in Rotuma.

"The majority of people, especially in the area of health, find it difficult to work with youths in Rotuma, however, with this workshop, it has helped us to identify ways in which we can work with the youths here and how we can involve them in our work and also the strategies we can use in order to get them involved in addressing health issues," Ivi said.

"As part of the workshop, I have learnt about the governance structure in Rotuma and how we as medical officers serving the community can come in and assist in some of these areas," he added.

Another youth, Rupeti Vafoou from the LaijeRotuma Initiative, came away from the event with clarity about the important role of young people need to play in bridging the gap between Rotuma's Youth Council, government stakeholders and Council of Chiefs.

Meanwhile for elders in the Rotuma, the workshop was an important reminder of the need for young people to be part of the Rotuma Council for inclusive development.

Jioje Sapeta from the Itu'muta Women's Club and a member of the Rotuma Women's Council, stressed that, "As a member of the Rotuma Island Council, I will be helping the Rotuma Youth to provide support in their initiatives."

"In the last few years that I have been in the Council there has not been a youth rep in the Council but now I have a good idea that they need to be a part of it and state their needs for development and we the council members have to help them," she added.

Miles Young, Director of SPC's HRSD division, highlighted that at least half the region's population is aged under 23. He emphasized how harnessing the talents of young people will have a significant impact on the economic prosperity, political success and social stability in the Pacific Islands region into the future.

"To ensure lasting and sustainable change for a prosperous Pacific, the involvement and participation of young people is crucial in positively influencing mindsets and attitudes towards gender equality and environmental sustainability," Young said.

Broderick Mervyn, Coordinator of Ignite4Change acknowledged SPC for partnering with Ignite4Change and continuously creating opportunities for youths in the Pacific.

HRSD will continue to support, empower and engage with young people as powerful actors of change to drive positive change across the Pacific region.

Human Rights and Social Development (HRSD) Division

From Fiji Sun (10 November 2020)

Copra Trade With Rotuma Expected To Boom: Singh

By Salote Qalubau

Rekha Devi Singh, 44, of Saweni, Lautoka, recently launched Pacific Island Copra Dealers, in a move she credits to the Fijian Government.

Ms Singh took a loan under the Government's micro, small and medium enterprise grant initiative, on June 24. By September, she received word that her loan of $7000 was approved.

She plans to repay the sum by mid-2021. Ms Singh said her husband, Atul Kumar, keeps watch over operations with the help of 20 farmers at the 100-acre copra farm in Motusa, Rotuma.

"I don't own the land, I just deal with the farmers there," Ms Singh said. "At first, I was out of finance and things didn't work out. But the Government came up with this business loan, so I decided to apply – and I'm thankful to the government they had faith in me."

First Order
Ms Singh plans to ship the first copra consignment to Viti Levu in November.

"My target now will be 20 tonnes per month," she said. "At the moment, I'm getting $300 per tonne. I plan to increase it to 25 tonnes a month, then 30. My market is Punja and Sons – they are buying at $1000 per tonne."

She said her family's background in copra farming was also an advantage for her. "I was raised in Buca Bay, where my family had a 100-acre copra farm estate," Ms Singh said.

"It was my dream to start my own business in copra farming," she said. A concern for her business was the weather elements, as copra from her farm was sun-dried.

"I also need labourers for unloading," Ms Singh said. The copra is shipped to Suva's Narain Jetty, where Punja and Sons collect it to transport to Lautoka. "I'm thankful to them for providing transport at their own cost," she said.

From Fiji Times (9 November 2020)

Rotuman youths to benefit from farming scheme

By Talebula Kate

Six youth groups in Rotuma received a timely assistance from Government that will help them cultivate their land.

Minister for Youth and Sports Parveen Kumar handed over assistance under the Youth Farm Initiative Program to the Losa Youth Club, Itumuta Youth Club, Hapmafau Youth Club, Motusa Youth Club, Hapmak Youth Club and Oinafa Youth Club last Saturday.

Mr Kumar said the sole reason for this exercise is to have a vibrant youth sector in the near future that contributes to the economy, reduces poverty and equalises living standards.

"This youth farm initiative program provides grants to youth clubs to cultivate the land and grow crops," Mr Kumar said.

The minister also closed two empowerment training sessions – one focused on Health and Wellbeing while the other focused on Financial Literacy.

A total of 100 youth members of Rotuma benefited from this farming assistance.

farm groups
One of the youth groups in Rotuma receiving their assistance under the Youth Farm Initiative Program. Picture: supplied