Creating safe public spaces for women and girls in Samoa
Jian Vun, an urban planner from Canberra, and his colleague, Fiona Sapatu, a project coordinator with the Planning and Urban Management Agency of Samoa, stand in a large room, listening to almost 200 women and girls explain how they feel when walking, working and shopping in the Savalo waterfront area of Apia, Samoa's capital city.
Jian and Fiona are in the middle of an extensive community consultation that will guide urban development in the Apia waterfront area for the next ten years. Jian's role as an Australian volunteer with the Planning and Urban Management Agency of Samoa is to strengthen the organisation's capacity in community consultations and strategic planning.
"I was lucky enough to be involved fairly early on in the planning process and helped to facilitate the first phase of consultations in October 2015," says Jian. "I also helped my counterparts to prepare the master plan document and, with limited funding and technical assistance, we were able to develop the plan completely internally within about twelve months – no small feat for a little planning agency in the Pacific!"
Throughout the consultation process, Jian has championed the voices of women and girls.
"The voices of women and girls are traditionally not heard in the world of urban planning and I was hoping to share my prior studies and experience with gender-inclusive design. We specifically encouraged women and girls to attend our Apia waterfront sessions so that they could share their particular experiences of the waterfront."
Jian and his colleagues have also conducted a safety audit along the waterfront, with assistance from the Auckland Council, to ascertain which spaces are unsafe. Recommendations include improvements to lighting and pavements, additional public facilities, more active lines of sight from private spaces to public spaces, and additional police patrols in hot spots.
Fiona Sapatu, Jian's Samoan counterpart, explains that the inclusive consultation process is enabling women to be actively involved in decision making that will help them to be more economically active in future (the waterfront comprises several commercial areas). She sees this as a crucial step to Samoa meeting Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
"Women and girls also benefit from the knowledge they gain from the consultations…Understanding the existing planning laws regulating proposed developments and amenities allows them to report issues to the right office for assistance, ensuring they are living in a safe and secure environment," says Fiona.
In March 2017, Jian returned for a second assignment to continue to support for the Planning and Urban Management Agency as they begin rolling out the Apia Waterfront Plan.
More information on Samoa's first urban master plan – which aims to stimulate economic growth, encourage tourism development, provide attractive community spaces and ensure a climate-resilient waterfront – is available on the City of Apia Waterfront website.
Volunteer profile: Emma Heard
Emma Heard, Australian Youth Ambassador for Development, School of Nursing at the National University of Samoa
Emma is an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development (AYAD) volunteer working with the School of Nursing at the National University of Samoa (NUS) to set up a free health clinic at NUS and organise community health promotion activities.
Love Bugs—one activity held on campus—aimed at raising awareness of sexually transmitted infections and giving young people information needed to support their wellbeing.
This successful initiative was driven by students, who raised concerns about the limited access to sexual health resources, services and information for young people in Samoa.
'We were initially concerned that the community might respond negatively to this event,' Emma said. 'But we found students and staff actively engaged in the activities and they seemed relieved to have a safe place to discuss sexual health issues.'
As a result of the event, free condom dispensers were installed on campus, in collaboration with the Samoa Family Health Association, the Samoa Red Cross and different departments on campus.
Emma is also helping set up a free health clinic for students and staff at NUS.
'The health clinic will initially offer basic health checks and first aid services and will eventually lead to becoming the hub for health promotions on campus', she said.
How to apply
More information, including applicant eligibility criteria can be found on the Australian Volunteers page.
Video: Changing Lives—Australian Volunteers in Samoa
Watch this video on YouTube.