‘There is a tremendous amount of leadership potential among Samoa’s women and they have a right to a voice in Parliament. These [Increasing Political Participation of Women in Samoa Programme] activities provide opportunities to share information and resources, answer questions, provoke discussion and encourage change.’

Ms Gatoloai Tili Afamasaga, Increasing Political Participation of Women in Samoa Programme Coordinator (UN Women, 2015).1

Samoa is a Pacific Island Country that consists of four inhabited and five uninhabited islands. The Samoan economy is dominated by subsistence agricultural farming, with around 97 per cent of households engaged in agricultural activities.2 Women account for approximately seven per cent of this agricultural activity. The Government, in collaboration with private sector and development partners, is supporting programs to expand the livelihood options and other income generating opportunities for women.3

Samoa ranks 104 out of 188 on the Human Development Index.4 While there is some evidence of changing gender norms, traditional culture still plays a central role in the Samoan way of life and men are predominantly regarded as the head of the household.5 However, women are showing greater participation in public life, with 43 per cent of the formally employed population being women.6

Leadership and Decision Making

Gender equality in women’s political participation remains a challenge, however the introduction of special measures illustrates some progress in this area. In June 2013, the Samoan Parliament unanimously passed the Constitution Amendment Act that introduced a 10 per cent quota7 of women representatives into the national Legislative Assembly – therefore women hold five of the 50 seats in the National Parliament. All candidates that stand for political leadership must still have a chiefly title of Matai. In 2011, only 10.5 per cent of Matai’s were women.8

Women are well represented in public sector managerial positions. As at May 2017, 12 of 38 Government Ministries and Corporations are headed by women Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). Of 128 Level Two Assistant CEOs, 79 are women and 49 are men.9

Samoa’s judiciary constitutes of 27 judges, seven of whom are women. Three women oversee court proceedings in Samoa’s Lands and Titles Court, two are Supreme Court judges and two are District Court judges.10

Economic Empowerment

Although there is still a gender disparity in the private sector, 40 per cent of businesses are headed by women.11 In 2013, Samoa passed the Labour and Employment Relations Act that provides stricter guidelines addressing sexual harassment and non-discrimination against applicants who are pregnant, requiring mandatory paid maternity leave and equal pay without discrimination based on gender.

Ending Violence Against Women

Violence against women is a serious issue in Samoa, with 46.4 per cent of all women who have been in a relationship having experienced one or more forms of violence.12 Data from the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration indicates that a total number of 625 women applied for protection orders between 2015 and 2016, while numbers from the Ministry of Police shows the number of domestic violence cases continues to increase with 767 cases recorded in 2015. A Family Violence Court and a Drugs and Alcohol Court has been established to oversee cases regarding all forms of violence in Samoan families related to drugs and alcohol.13

Enhancing Agency

Samoa is a signatory to a range of international and regional commitments, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. These commitments are premised on the belief and understanding that gender equality goes hand-in-hand with sustainable national development.

On 2 December 2016, the Government of Samoa ratified the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which emphasises the need for a gender perspective in efforts to support women living with a disability.14

Key Statistics

Leadership and Decision Making

10 per cent of Samoa’s National Parliament is made up of women (5 out of 50 members).15

47.3 per cent of management and decision-making positions are held by women.16



 Economic Empowerment

Economic Empowerment

24 per cent of women participate in the labour force (includes formal and informal economy).

16 per cent gender gap in the labour force participation rate (male to female).



 Ending Violence Against Women

Ending Violence Against Women

46.4 per cent of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced one or more forms of violence.17




Enhancing Agency

Samoa has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

26.9 per cent is the contraceptive prevalence rate of women aged between 15-49.

120 is the Gender Parity Index for secondary school enrolment (gross) in 2015 – for every 100 boys enrolled, there were 120 girls enrolled.

Note: Statistics in this section are from the Asian Development Bank (2016) Gender Statistics: The Pacific and Timor Leste report unless otherwise stated.

Partnership with Pacific Women

Through Pacific Women, the Australian Government will spend approximately AU$9.3 million over ten years (2012-2022) on initiatives supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment in Samoa. Approximately AU$1.8 million has been spent delivering activities in-country (FY2012-2013 to FY2015-2016). More information on the partnership and nature of support is included in the Pacific Women Samoa Country Plan Summary 2015-2020 valued at AU$4.4 million. Details on activities currently underway in-country with various partners is available via our interactive map. The list of program partners can be found here. Samoa is also supported by Pacific Women’s regional program, details of which can be viewed on the interactive map under regional activities.   

Further Information

Stories of Change

Small grants to achieve big results

Noticing a high number of children street vendors, the Pacific Women-funded Samoan Women Shaping Development program investigated. They discovered the underlying causes leading to children vending were poverty, unemployment of parents, and a lack of income to support large families and responded with a project that is helping six families to increase incomes and return children vendors to school.


Addressing drug and alcohol use as key contributors to violence against women

Recognizing that alcohol and drug use contributes to violence, Samoan Women Shaping Samoan Development (SWSDP) is funding a case management officer at the pilot Alcohol and Drugs Court. By partnering on this new court initiative with the Ministry of Justice, Courts and Administration, the Australian aid program’s Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative is helping to reduce incidences of substance abuse and violence against women.


Expanding Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Services

The Samoa Family Health Association (SFHA) is Samoa’s leading provider of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services. With support from IPPF, SFHA provided services to more than 10 percent of Samoa’s population in 2015.


Samoan Women Shaping Development

The Pacific Women-funded Samoan Women Shaping Development program is implemented by the Samoan Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development with civil society, government and private sector partners. The program’s approach to improving gender equality in Samoa is holistic and grounded in respect for Samoan culture.


1Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (2015) First Progress Report 2012-2015
2Government of Samoa (2015) Report on Samoa Agriculture Survey
3Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat – 2013 Samoa Gender Profile
4United Nations, Human Development Indicators 2015
5UNIFEM Ending Violence Against Women (2010)
6Samoa Bureau of Statistics, Employment Statistics, March 2017 Quarter.
7Asian Development Bank (2016) Gender Statistics: The Pacific and Timor Leste
8UN Women Asia Pacific
9Public Service Commission (2017). Figures of women as CEOs and ACEOs.
10Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016
12Samoa Health and Safety Survey (2006)
13Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016
14United Nations Treaty Collection as at 25th July 2017
15Pacific Women in Politics as at May 2017
16Managerial positions include politicians, senior government officials, and corporate and general managers in the public and private sector.
17Samoa Health and Safety Survey (2006)