Samoan-born Karanina Sumeo migrated to New Zealand with her family when she was 10 years old.
She began her academic journey with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Auckland and continued with a Master of Philosophy in Social Policy at Massey University.
Karanina came to AUT to complete a PhD looking at the rights of women, fa’afafine and fakaleiti to land under traditional tenure in urban centres of Samoa and Tonga.
In Samoa, traditional tenure is customary. Karanina chose Samoa as a case study as her siblings are living there, so it is important to her to make sure their land is protected.
“My children were born in raised here in New Zealand so it’s also important for their identity to know they have family land in Samoa.”
Karanina has family connections in Tonga as well, where all land is owned by the King and essentially controlled by the state.
Raised primarily by her mother, grandparents and aunties, Karanina says she was driven by a personal interest to conduct research looking at the rights of women.
“I’m particularly interested in the rights of women to land as it is a strategic asset for our people,” says Karanina. “The informal economy is much larger than the formal economy and our people rely on land.”