Her Excellency Masiofo La'ulu Fetauimalemau Mata'afa, who died in Apia, Samoa this week, was lauded as a pioneering parliamentarian who also championed the cause of women and of non-governmental organizations.
"She was known to most of the world as Fetaui Mata'afa and we will remember her as a key mover in the establishment and growth of the FSPI network, which now spreads across Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia and Southeast Asia," said Lelei LeLaulu, chairman of the Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International (FSPI) adding, "Much of what we learned in our early days and applied in other parts of the world we learned at the feet of this remarkable women - who more than any other individual - improved dramatically the role of women in Pacific societies, governments and communities."
"Fetaui, who was elected for two terms to parliament, was a champion of the rights of non-governmental organizations like FSP, Counterpart International, and others because she recognized the value of communities in enhancing the health, wealth, education and culture of islands," said LeLaulu, who is also president of Counterpart International, formerly known as FSP.
Mrs. Mata'afa was a long-serving member of the Counterpart International Advisory Council and was a member of the Eminent Persons Group for the 1994 United Nations Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in Barbados. "Her work on the world stage was recognised by the United Nations Secretary General who appointed her to the Eminent Persons Group which among other things placed the issue of climate change firmly on the international agenda in the early '90s," said LeLaulu.
"She will be remembered and revered for doing so much to empower women many years before it was acceptable and Fetaui always eloquently articulated the need to educate and train Pacific women. Her appointment as Pro-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific recognised her tremendous contributions to education in the wider region," recalled LeLaulu.
Mrs. Mata'afa who held the Chiefly Orator's title, La'ulu, from the Lotofaga community, was the widow of Fiame Mata'afa Faumuina Mulinu'u II, who led Samoa to independence from New Zealand in 1962. Her father, Le Mamea Matatumua Ata, was a framer of the Samoa Constitution. Her daughter, the paramount chief, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, was one of the youngest members elected to parliament and is now a senior cabinet minister. In addition to serving as the Samoa High Commissioner to New Zealand, Mrs. Mata'afa was also the leader of the National Council of Women for many years.