The idea for Her Voice was birthed out of my trip to New York in 2017 attending the Commission on the Status of women (CSW61) as part of the World YWCA delegate and as a recipient of the UN Women Yvonne Herbert Scholarship. During this trip, I was able to speak in forums and platforms I never imagined I would.
One night I was asked last minute to speak at a function hosted by the YWCA USA at Yale Hotel (yes I remembered every detail vividly). I was struggling to think of what to speak about, and then there was that inner voice telling me to speak about ‘your story’ and ‘your journey’. I remembered walking up to the podium with my heart racing fast, and as I stood facing the crowd of amazing women, this made me even more skeptical, but I knew I had to be bold. Half way through my talk, the room was so quiet and I remember seeing women wiping tears from their face, and then the applause at the end; it was this point I realize the power in one’s story.
I always think of how I would be able to give back to the young women of Samoa when I came back. At the time I was running a small photography business on the side and was doing some bit of blogging on my leisure time, I thought about utilizing these platform to reach out to the young women and so ‘Her Voice’ started in August 2017. It was never an easy journey especially having to coordinate everything by yourself, God answered my prayers and sent Jun my way, and from there we have been able to collaborate and jointly coordinate along the way.
Her Voice is the empowerment of young women in the form of Arts (photography, fashion, makeup, blogging, and videography). Her Voice promotes partnerships/sisterhood, it enables young women to share and learn from each other, it showcases the talents of young women and for them to bring their ideas to life through collaboration, Her Voice empowers young women to speak up. The project is non-profit and is conducted 90% online.
The procedure is that we would select a young woman to share their story each month in which they can either be recommended by our online community or selected by the team. We interview young women from different areas of expertise. We believe that every young woman deserves to know that they are beautiful and confident role models in our Samoan society. In saying this, we have collaborated with visionary photographers, makeup artists, bloggers and designers/fashion houses to bring each young women’s story to life. The stories are then posted on social media for the public to view and share.
Through these stories, we have obtained positive feedbacks from our online community residing as far as Europe. Nevertheless the support system from our loved ones, friends and colleagues has been tremendously shown throughout the two phases of Her Voice. With the project being 100% voluntary, the greatest support that has fueled the success of the project lies on the hands of the young talented photographers, makeup artists, bloggers, videographers, and fashion houses that offered their time and service in support of the project’s vision.
Nonetheless it was not a smooth journey as we also encountered challenges along the way. With the both of us working full time finding the time to coordinate and implement Her Voice is complicated. For instance, during the Measles Outbreak, our schedule was disturbed as our full attention was committed to work. One other major issue is being able to meet deadlines each month.
As the co-founders of Her Voice, we truly believe in self-development, if young women are well-informed, well-equipped they can realize their potential and be more enthusiastic to become better beings. We believe that stories can influence the mind, body and spirit; we believe that everyone has a story to tell; we believe that YOUR story, OUR story plays a chord in someone else’s story.
My name is Fusi Masina Ti’eti’e, one of the co-founders for Her Voice. I work full-time as one of the Principal Officers for the Ministry of Health Samoa and currently the Young Women Vice President for the YWCA Samoa. I have been privilege to represent the voice of young women of Samoa in regional and global conferences namely Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), High Level Political Forum, Pacific Ministers for Women Meeting to name a few. Some of my passion in life includes working with young women, photography and traveling.
Jun Ho Gregory Kim is my full name commonly known as Jun. I also work full time as a Principal Officer at the Ministry of Health and was recently elected as a Youth Representative for the Samoa Fa’afafine Association. My passions include youth development at the grass root level, gender equality, empowerment of minority groups, writing and watching anime/reading manga.
Credit : Makeup by Savannah Artistry
Fashionista : John Teueli of Theresa’s Shop
Photographer: Luaipou Ann Matalasi