Manufou Liaiga-Anoa'i - CSW Spotlight
The Commission on the Status of women (CSW) Spotlight is featuring Commissioner Manufou Liaiga-Anoa’i aka Fou, who has served on the commission since 2011. Fou has led various initiatives for the County and served as Vice-President of the Commission in 2019.
Born and Raised: San Francisco, CA
● Head Start, Early Head Start, Home Based Program
Job(s) held that is most unlike what I currently do now: Governement
Yrs of Experience: 6.5 years
Title: Liaison / Special Assistant to Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. to District 11 & Pacific Islander Community
Organization: City & County of San Francisco - Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services
Significant Challenge: Navigating through the political process without compromising my own personal beliefs and moral compass
Significant Accomplishment: I represented my District 11 where I was born and raised, along with being the first PI Liaison to a SF Mayor
Significant Learning: the fundamentals of collaboration in government systems and how politics is all relational along with understanding the reality that folks many times are not aligned with similar values and that at the end of the day, reminding myself of my "why," which was making a difference in a community that I treasure while also bringing a different mindset to local government.
Career Advice: Stay true to yourself, don’t allow status and money to comprise your soul
Significant Challenge: Time management - so much to do, just not always enough time
Significant Learning: Balancing act of being a woman and the societal expectations of your role in the home, at work and in the community. This is a constant journey for me as I’m still learning how to say no especially when my heart says yes. Also, trying to not personalize things especially in community/political circles.
Life Advice: Being present, unfortunately my family started 2020 off with the loss of our dear son who left us unexpectedly. My advice to myself is to be more like Anthony was, he was intentional about living in the moment, appreciating those experiences and taking advantage of being adventurous as he lived fully.
What is an issue for women/girls that stands out most for you? Overall health - physical well being and mental health. Women/girls continually do not prioritize themselves and many times neglect ensuring that they are in a good place - mentally, spiritually and physically. My younger self would have answered differently, but what I have found in most recent years is that if I am healthy, I am able to be a more thoughtful contributor to important decisions that impact the work I believe in and belong to. For example, being a School Board Trustee requires that we are fiscally responsible and create policies that enhance our students learning experiences along with understanding our district staffs needs. I don’t believe that I would be able to make sound decisions, if I am constantly unhealthy, exhausted and/or overwhelmed with life. So thinking outside of the box and how we might be able to improve access to quality health care for all, especially women and children.
Other causes you support? Special Education and Differential Learning Approaches and Experiences. As a mother of a special needs child, I take great value in learning of strategies to support not only my daughter’s social, emotional and spiritual learning, but sharing those experiences with the hope of raising awareness and providing information that may be beneficial to others.
Most admired people/role models: Michelle Obama, she is compassionate and forgiving, absolutely brilliant and leads with such grace and class. As a woman of color who is involved in public service seeing how she has been able to balance being a pillar of strength and wisdom as the First Lady of our nation and not being reactive to being a continuous target of hate and discrimination. Her quote says it all, “When they go low...we go high…”. I hope I get to meet her some day, she is such an inspiration.
My Mother, Papali’i Manufou Fonoti Liaiga-Mulitauaopele - she came to this country in search of the American dream. She was able to secure a job at the SF Chinese Hospital as a nursing assistant through a fellow neighbor in Hunter’s Point in SF Bayview. She had no qualifications, but worked hard, watched her fellow colleagues, went home and practiced on my older brothers and sister. While her professional life was falling into place, she soon became a divorcee and a few years later married my father and added four more kids to the equation - we were truly a blended family. Unfortunately, she ended up being a widow when I was only 15 years old and it was then when I began to recognize what a strong woman looked like. She was a caretaker for her family still back in the homeland, always sending money home as she was also the High Chief which was such a rarity. She always provided for us as well as maintaining good standing as a founding church member, maintaining her duties as a High Chief and raising her children alone. She had to make many tough decisions and her faith was unwavering and her word had great value in our community - folks relied on her and she never failed them. It was important to her that she always delivered and set a good example for other women to follow. I saw her mentor other women up and when I became an adult I realized how invaluable her life lessons were as these women advanced themselves to do more and be more and had credited her for these opportunities.
My mother would start each day with a prayer and then having me pull a fortune cookie from her recycled Pond’s cold cream jar which was now replaced with these paper fortunes. My job was to read it out loud and then translate it in Samoan. The daily ritual is something I continue today with my family because her purpose was not only to engage us in our native tongue, but to start each day off with a sense of hope, some inspiration. She was an example of integrity and humility and would always tell me, “Fou all you have at the end of the day is your name, your word so make sure it’s worth something.”
Favorite activities in your “personal downtime”: Finishing a book, journaling (hoping to publish a memoir that has been left unfinished too long) and taking pictures of those I love and sharing them, this has been a joy since I was 7 years old and I love how to this day folks wait to see what pictures I will share on social media or via a text or email - they count on that moment coming to life through my share - that photo
Favorite local hangouts:Breakfast spots in my neighborhood, Original Joe’s, Boulevard Cafe and use to be bookstores, but they’re long lost gems now
Favorite shows, movies, or books: Greenleaf and Queen Sugar hit home for me as I do not see anyone on tv or the big screen that I can relate to, I love Brene Brown’s books and more recently Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s Bio along with the Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris
Something about me that may surprise you: I am a nerd and have a quirky sense of humor
Anything else: Hope to retire in 5 years, remaining hopeful