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One fa’afafine is trying to transform the experience of a new rainbow generation in Auckland schools

Grace Fiavaai

‘It’s hard for parents to accept their children as fa’afafine’

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

She survived life at an all-boys school, and now she’s giving a helping hand to other transgender and fa’afafine youth going through the education system.

Steva Auina (30) studied at Kelston Boys’ High School, and now she’s running a Ministry of Education funded programme called Laulima, supporting young fa’afafine in secondary schools.

Auina’s definition of fa'afafine is the traditional and respected Samoan role of a man who acts in the way of a woman, and she’s also comfortable with more western terms like transwoman and transgender.

Auina says she speaks to the young people she’s dealing with about the challenges she faced when she was a teen.

“They appreciate the struggles and the tormenting times that myself and the older generation had in school.”

Auina’s trying to help break barriers, using her lived experience to make sure young fa’afafine have the opportunities she and her peers didn't have.

She believes that even small things count, so she provides the teenagers with little make-up packs for each individual.

“This gives them a sense of belonging, so they can feel more connected to who they are.”

Auina is working at schools including Kelston Boys High School, Aorere College, De La Salle College and Southern Cross College.

Part of the programme is practical, providing assistance with things including new laptops, school uniforms, and fees.

And she also works at engaging with students and educators on a more personal level.

“Everything I do in life, I engage myself in is always teamwork. So I thought about how I could incorporate this, and that's how Laulima came to fruition.”

The Samoan translation for Laulima is “your hands”. Auina compares this to a symbol of unity.

“Although we are in the 21st century, it is hard for some of the parents to accept their “fanau” as a fa’afafine.”

Not just fa’afafine, Auina is also supporting a range of rainbow students, and she says her holistic approach that includes the whole family.

Auina hopes to grown the programme.

Not just fa’afafine, Auina is also supporting a range of rainbow students, and often their families.

“The future I see on Laulima, where it is going on its waka is expansion by Pāsefika fa’afafine.”

One of the Ministry of Education requirements from the programme is to present a stage show portraying the talents and identities of the students and others.

That's happening Saturday 17 July from 7pm at the Due Drop Events Centre in Manukau.

Hero Image: Handing over new laptop devices to Laulima Students from De La Salle. Photo / Steva Auina

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