Leina Isno is my name and it is my pleasure to meet you here as you are reading my first ever blog. English is not my first language however, I love languages. I could not even speak a handful of them.
I love people. I love the community. It is essentially family. The community still stands as the backbone and fabric to any individual or society. It will always come to the rescue despite any given circumstances. The values of community and social philanthropy are important hence I try and invest into them for the long term benefits.
My passion lies solely on making a difference to womens health world-wide and investing in them. Both anthropology and linguistics play a huge role in my influencing my way of thinking too. My origins stem from a remote tropical South Pacific Island nation called Vanuatu. It has seen its fair share of natural disasters as well as a rise of exposure to modern technology. But yet it continues to harbour the primitive ways of living.
I come from a nuclear family; my father Peter is highly entrepreneurial and politically oriented. He worked hard on his 6 hectares of land to grow and breed the different species of coconuts and other tropical food crops. He planted cocoa plantations and grew coffee and vanilla beans in-between. These are cash crops. He loved the agricultural sector and was dedicated to raising a cash income for his family. He even experimented grafting on certain plants. He often persevered with creating micro-aquaculture both in the running stream that ran through his land as well as the coastal waters. The fresh water shrimps were either stolen by thieves or died of other natural causes. He loved the ocean. He strived to save the ocean floor and protect the marine life on his coastal property and the sea creatures only to his dismay that the locals would disrespect his customary taboos when the signs go up. They would wade through the water and trash the young coral lives with their heavy footsteps. I heard him speak of the urgent need for the government to recognise the need for us the agricultural farmers and supply us with agricultural reps who would teach us farmers to make decent produce from our lands. I hear him mentor the young sons of the men in the village; I see men come to him for advice and support, to dine with him, to help launch the village council, to set up the fishing association, and a whole raft of other important decisions. I see him stand for what is right in the village courts and the customary meetings. I hear the frightening voice of my mother as she recalls my father being preyed upon by the local men with machetes and axes due to land battles. I saw the devastation of our fruit trees suffer from angry punters who would cut through the stems of our young plants. His many years of hard work of growing produce would blow right in front of him. It was ripping. He had lost so much come to think of it. At a recent funeral, I hear my mother speak of my father agreeing and volunteering to be the man who would go to the grave of a young man in the dark hours of the night to talk to the spirit to find out the cause of death. Chilling. It gave me the shivers up my spine. I heard him speak of pregnant mothers who lived in the Middle Bushes of Malekula, Vanuatu with no medical care available. They would walk for the rest of daylight to get to the nearest Aid Post clinic. It was unsettling. One day, he wants me to be able to attend to these mothers. We will walk up the hills, through the valleys and the deep jungles, cross the rivers, streams and lakes, and trek through the scorching heat to help these young mothers. These are our people. They will always be our people; our family. We must help them. You must help them. You must pay it forward. Good things will happen to you when you pay it forward. These words are firmly fixated and bestowed in me from my father.
Ruby, my mother is a dedicated house wife who is mostly obsessed with cleaning. I have often labelled her with this obsessive compulsive disorder as everyday (except sunday) she would either clean our houses (we have several little huts) or be cleaning up a backyard somewhere. She would often finish off cleaning with a smoking bon fire out of the village-this was always a huge satisfaction! Ruby, despite her obessiveness to clean, I believe has been and continues to be a wonderful companion to my father Peter with all his businesses and the need to travel to attend regular meetings out of the village to help the communitys growth and development. In a recent heartwarming conversation, I heard my father complement my mothers cleaning abilities-she ensured that our Lumete Beach bungalows and the beach were immaculate when the occasional tourists arrived.
They were happily married on the 16th August 1978. I don’t remember any more details but judging from their wedding photos, mum wore a beautiful white flowing veil with her white dress. She looked radiantly happy. I think she may have been given the wedding gown by the Australian missionaries-both Rev Ian Taylor and Val, his wife who were incredibly instrumental in the settlement and civilisation of our people. Thirty eight years of marriage; yes ups and downs included and they were blessed with three beautiful daughters who have presented very differently. I often asked my parents as to how they ended up with totally different girls with vast personalities; Leina loved the community, Jean was outrageously rebellious and Flaviea became a woman of few words. Nevertheless, deep down, I knew Peter and Ruby loved and adored their girls.
Peter would have loved to have a son-it would mean a great deal to him. I saw it in his eyes. I heard him talk about loving and raising a son to look after his business and his tribal land. I have observed him exchanging customary gifts to adopt a son from another tribe with no success a few times. They were heartbreaking moments. I have seen him invest in education for his cousins son hoping that one day this child would come and live with him and learn his traits only to his utter dissatisfaction that they would turn into thieves who would rob him of his wealth. I have heard him talk to his wife about the possibility of adopting from Port Vila Central hospital, Vanuatu, one of those tiny human beings who were going to be given to families because they were unplanned pregnancies. I have heard him talk to his brother Shem before he passed on or even Kaitip about getting one of his sons to be one of his own sons so he can pass on the tribal rights to him only to find out these men were not interested in his entrepreneurial pursuits. His dreams were often shattered. He was robbed so many times. He lost on the capital investments. He gave away large sums of money in thousands to buy a dingy boat to go deep sea fishing-a hobby that he loved, only to discover that his cash was never returned and no boat came with it either. He gave generously to the community through his little dairy business and from the produce of his land. I saw him dictate to his siblings as to whose turn it is to harvest the coconuts and the cocoa to earn money. He was generous and thoughtful. This yearly system really made a difference to his siblings lives and well being. Yet I have never spoken to him about how he felt about not having a son in the family throughout the years. I felt his pain. Over the years I have occasionally felt it in his voice. One day I would hope that he is ready to sit down and talk about it. I would love to interview him about what it is like not having a son. I am sure he spoke to Ruby about it. Being the eldest of the family, I often wondered if he ever saw anything of great value in me being a woman as he realised that the prospects of having a son in the family was diminishing. It must be really demeaning for him. I’ve never felt sure of it. It is stigmatising having only girls in a culture where men are very dominant and have tribal and land rights. He must think he is the most unlucky man on this earth having no sons! A part of me however believes, despite all of that, he saw something worth investing in his girls and he persevered. I hope the world agrees that it is worth investing in women.
The three girls worked hard on the land. Ruby had land from her ancestors as they had settled into a village and were seen as the other tribes who were not from area. The scorching heat of those sunny days as well as the high humid climate would always see us sweating and often cooling off by the river sides in the bushes after all the shrub cuttings and ground diggings. Peter and Ruby planted a lot of cash crops with their daughters. Ruby loved animals. They had pet cats and pigs. Ruby raised a chicken farm but of course thieves would steal stock from their land. Often at times, I hear Ruby talk about how much she wanted a son; to climb the fruit trees, to carry the axe to chop down the trees or the coconuts, to accompany her to the distant gardens, to stand up to the bullies. I have never asked whether they would like to try and create another human being. That is another pain staking conversation. Secretly, I wished we had a brother. Everybody else had them. I am sure we would teach each other something worthwhile about society and being productive. Ruby’s pregnancies were hard requiring close to caesarean sections; these days, no woman should be pregnant on remote islands with no medical assistance available. Women in first world countries would not even consider home births on remote locations; yet our third world women lived and breathed through it all.