It has almost been 3 months since the Inter-Regional Retreat took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan. For the most part, the largest Pacific youth delegation that attended took up the mantle of leadership passed on from senior mentors and made waves at the IRR, announcing that the Mataw Pacific Hub has come to the Innovation for Change table and is here to stay. In true Pacific fashion, members of the newly-created Mataw Pacific Hub returned to their islands with one goal in mind – mobilisation of the Pacific citizen.
My name is Taimalelagi Kaisarina Salesa and I am a Mataw Pacific Hub member from the Independent State of Samoa. A small island located in what many still refer to as the Oceanic region. Samoa, like its closest neighbours Fiji and Tonga, boasts beautiful pristine beaches, friendly people and island time. This is the nicest way of saying that island people are always late to work, meetings and conferences unless food and drinks are involved. Only then are the Pacific people very hard to miss, we station ourselves right next to the buffet and bar. We congregate in such a way always because we believe that the buffet and bar are representations of our islands i.e. food and water is always nearby.
Since Kazakhstan, I have been involved with the Samoa Young Entrepreneurs Chambers (YEC) which was recently established in 2017. YEC was created to address the rising need of young entrepreneurs to not only understand the world of business but to also establish and conduct business with a positive social impact on their communities. YEC has underpinned the Sustainable Development Goals as one of its guiding frameworks. The hope is to educate and mentor a new generation of entrepreneurs towards more socially and environmentally conscious enterprises while also building the capacity of their members.
This year YEC took to the streets to celebrate Samoa’s National Youth Week in the lead up to the commemoration of International Youth Day. Promoting #SafeSpaces4Youth, YEC Samoa hosted one of the most youth-friendly information booths. YEC Samoa launched the booth on Day one with a selfie competition and its first theme of #YouthThatWorks.
To achieve this, YEC Samoa showcased several young entrepreneurs focused on combating the impact of climate change through their social enterprises such as 4RPacific. They are dedicated to reducing plastic waste through initiatives such as recycling and up-cycling. The YEC Samoa booth was the only booth to host plastic banks and a water refillable station. YEC Samoa had the opportunity to educate and promote awareness on how people could turn their plastic waste into an income-generating initiative.
On its second day, YEC Samoa focussed on fostering awareness about healthy living through consuming locally and organically sourced food items. Supporting local organic enterprises, YEC Samoa also lent its platform to its young members farming organic, locally grown produce. Samoa is slowly fostering young women farmers who are leading the way in value adding agri-produce such as TUKI – a starter-up that has re-created Samoa’s coconut jam and has added her own twist such as infusions with turmeric, ginger and locally available spices and herbs as an alternative to processed sugary syrups imported from overseas.
Other local alternatives on display were Samoa’s very own breadfruit flour, showcasing
that by supporting local enterprises, the need for processed foods would reduce. Perhaps the most important lesson of this day was the opportunity for YEC members to promote that sustainable living is possible, should Samoan youths return to understanding their traditional food practices and by innovating traditional and local cuisines to suit today’s modern lifestyle.
To end its #SafeSpaces4Youth initiative, YEC Samoa took the time to engage with many child street vendors by providing them with food, a safe place to rest and an opportunity to enjoy the festivities. They were also given information on how they could get help if needed. It is the hope of YEC Samoa that during its 3 day awareness initiative, young people are empowered and feel safe pursuing careers and enterprises built on positive social and environmental impact.