Many young school leavers in Samoa sacrifice the opportunity for higher education in order to earn money and help their parents cope with family expenses.
That was the case for Paiaaua Anita Tavui, now 36 and working as an Accounts Manager with Digicel Samoa. A dream job with financial rewards and career prospects based on her performance. A job she’s been able to secure through a track record of dedicated work experience, even though she could not go on to tertiary education and have a piece of paper with her name on it. A job that helps her to continue to look after her father, her siblings, and now a family of her own.
On this Mother’s Day long weekend, Paiaaua reflects back on her journey and the sacrifices she had to make as a daughter, a sister, and now a wife and mother.
Paiaaua’s father was able to support herself and her siblings through Primary School and to the end of High School. However, when she completed Year 13 with enough marks to make it into NUS, that dream was beyond what her parents could afford – and just not an option in a family of 9 children, and one income-earner.
“I had a chance to go to the National University of Samoa unfortunately due to our financial situation at the time, I was not able to go because my father was the only person who had a job and my mom stayed at home..”
So at 18 and equipped with a Church College of Samoa Pesega High School leaving certificate, Anita was able to secure a job at the Yazaki Vaitele factory where hundreds of Samoan women were engaged in the production of automotive wire harnesses, at minimum wage.
“I was earning $100 tala a week”, she shares.. “I worked there for a year before going back to school to take a Diploma in Secretarial Studies at Samoa Polytechnic..but after two years of studying, my father got sick and I had to again stop studies to earn an income for my family”.
So as a 20 year old, Anita secured a job with Polynesian Airlines where she worked as a Passenger Service Officer for two years. During this time, as a 21 year-old, Anita lost her mother, the late Fautua Leniu Malaetala.
“Mom passed away at the age of 58 from stomach cancer,” she shares. “It was a difficult time for us, and especially my father. That was 14 years ago, and I don’t think he ever got over it and he never remarried”.
With now more of a burden on her to earn an income for her family, Paiaaua moved from Polynesian Airlines to ANZ Bank where she worked for seven years. From there, she moved across to Computer Services Ltd as a Telephonist, assisting the Desk Officer until she was promoted to be a Senior Sales Rep.
Paiaaua says the many years of holding up any job she could find, finally paid off four years ago, when a friend told her about an Accounts Manager opening at Digicel Samoa.
“It is such a blessing to have this role here at Digicel as an Accounts Manager,” says Mrs Tavui. “After many years in the workforce, I am finally earning a comfortable salary, with opportunities to grow..
“There is more responsibility, but I am exposed to more areas of work to expand my career, such as debt collecting and sales, and I really enjoy it”.
With the expansion of her career, came other responsibilities such as the matai title of Paiaaua, bestowed on her by her family at Matavai, Safune.
Today, Paiaaua takes care of her 75 year old father as well as her siblings, and now faces new challenges as a working mother.
“As a mother it is my job to provide for my family. I now have my husband and son as well as my siblings who are under my care at the moment, and everyday, I am motivated to get up and go to work for them,” she says.
“My biggest challenge as a working Mom, is to try and balance the responsibilities at work, with family-related challenges and my many roles outside of Digicel..
“My role at work requires a lot of focus. My team and I have set targets to meet and the challenge for me is to be able to put aside the worries from home, so that I can give my team the energy and effort needed to achieve our work goals”.
Paiaaua Anita says the thought of her family lingers on her mind a lot, especially the bills that need to be paid from time to time.
“That is why I am so grateful to God for my job, and the opportunity to earn a decent living and be able to take care of my family..
“It’s all about time management and to be honest, when I feel like there is so much to get done, I just stop, and breathe, and remember my motivation – my Dad, my family, my husband and my son – they are my reason for living”.