“The baton must be passed on!”
These were words stringed and repeatedly drummed into me by Dr Pala Molisa, a lecturer at the Victoria University’s accounting and commercial law, who is a tireless active West Papua Advocate, a radical Climate Change and Womens Rights Movement Campaigner. He is a family friend too. I’ve always appreciated our lengthy conversations about pressing issues that surround the Pacific and especially Vanuatu Women and their place in society, in particular the political arena in Vanuatu. His mother Grace Mera Molisa who I’ve come to learn more about as a political activist, a poet and a womens equal rights campaigner was and will always be an inspiration. I’ve heard very little of her but I remembered when she passed away, Radio Vanuatu commented that she was “the voice of Ni-Vanuatu Women.” In fact The Australian described her as “Vanguard for melanesian culture” and one of the Pacific’s leading public intellectuals and publicists. I admired her. I honour her for speaking five languages! I have trouble speaking and writing english! But I have this nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away that-she wants us; the young Vanuatu women to carry on the legacy! The Baton must be passed on no matter what!
One thing that really bugs and irritates me is the culture of the Ni-Vanuatu Women. They often bitch about each other! Its the truth. Or is it a common trait amongst the Melanesian women? Can you find the same in other cultures too? Maybe I’ve lived for too long overseas that I don’t really get a handle of the culture anymore. I doubt it. There are local women who become very negative and unsupportive of each other. It is especially evident when one of them tries to develop in a professional sense; to move forward only to be bagged down and out by an unsupportive bunch. I absolutely loathe it. I couldn’stand it. My blood boils just hearing women try to tear each other down. Where is the support of a sister, a colleague, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt a same sex fighting for the same human rights? I wish women could stop bitching about each other! If only we can all stop degrading each other or stop mocking one of us, I am sure we would have made so much progress with business and development.There will be so many more beautiful partnerships formed. The world will be a better place. Vanuatu will be a better place. Think about it. Its true. We spend some much time and energy blaffing untrue stories about each other instead. We should all be united as one. In unity! All with a common goal of lifting and supporting our statuses in the community and contributing to the developments. Strong people don’t put others down. They lift them up.
There are Vanuatu Women who are pioneers and I have yet to meet them, shake hands and hug them for the tireless work of carrying the baton on for our Vanuatu girls and women. Very few Ni-Vanuatu women know and realise this. It is such an essential role. These women need to be identified, be lifted and be supported. We need to expose these women to our younger generations. History is important-It teaches us so much more so we can build from their foundations. We should be celebrating their tireless work through the generations and the years. Women like Merelyn Tahi, the late Hon. Hilda Lini, Eta Rory and many more that I couldn’t remember for now have always fought hard to uphold our womens rights on a political platform. They ensure that we are well represented on that national and international stage.
There needs to be more research and documented stories of these women who acknowledged the importance of women in society and will fight on all arenas to have our voices heard. I would love to be that one woman who would sit down one day to create a book purely dedicated to all our strong Vanuatu Women who have recognised and held onto these international human rights; to interview, research, mingle with these awesome women about whats important in society. There are women who I have yet to meet and provide some support to; to a certain extend-to be there for them, to access my international networks for support and to really lift them up in life and their career and their chosen pathways.
The Vanuatu Womens Centre had some alarming statistics about the violence in Vanuatu (and what a national shame and disgrace!): Around 60% women experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner.
- More than 20% of women injured are left with a permanent disability – including having to remove an eye, teeth, badly broken bones and internal organ damage.
- 30% of women are sexually abused before the age of 15 years.
- For nearly 30% of Ni-Vanuatu women, their first sexual experience was one of rape.
In Vanuatu the prevalence of sexual abuse against girls under the age of 15 is one of the highest in the world.
I am actually not surprised. I grew up around violence. It’s no surpise and I am not even going to deny it. No point. I witnessed it in my own family. It was shocking and heartbreaking. But I had no way to voice it. I had no support. I was a little person. It was only until I left home that I was so much more educated about whats right and wrong that I was able to make informed decisions. There is so much more support around me. I became an advocate against Violence Against Women! It was empowering. I am able to speak up against it. I am able to educate my family especially my own father about it; the devastating consequences it has on a woman and her family and the watching community. I’ve lived overseas for a long time and I’ve observed a similar problem-Its happening worldwide. I am not going to be ashamed of where I come from and I truly condemn the growing violence. I will be an advocate on the international stage and I will work against it to protect our women and young girls. I am hoping that Zonta International will become that important platform I will use to support me in going forward to looking after the women.
These days I am looking for opportunities to move forward in life-supporting our rural women who work so hard to make ends meet. The International Rural Womens Day is always a pleasure to hear as a full programme on Radio Vanuatu Broadcasting come the International Day of Rural Women. Its a special time when we honour our Farming and Agricultural Women. I am so pleased to hear that UN Women in Vanuatu has also done a lot of working and mentoring these rural women to set up their own businesses especially around the areas of Port Vila to get ahead in life. I come from a rural background-I know whats it’s like to not have the basic necessities. Its often troubling and unsettling; not having enough and wanting to have more. Its always challenging too when the government doesn’t truly invest in the agricultural sector. Its even more challenging trying to find ways to make money to pay for childrens school fees-yes education in Vanuatu is not free!
I’ve always wanted to invest in our rural women-I will do whatever it takes to support them on an international level. One of the small things I do to support them from afar is setting up a little arts and crafts business to support them in my garage. I have never forgotten them-I hold them very close to my heart as they are family. These little baskets are woven from the heart of these women of Lawa Village, South West Bay, Malekula, Vanuatu.
I have always believed that investing in women is a success! They do a lot of things come to think of it. I do a lot things on my own being a single woman. I run my own business successfully. Well, at least for now. A real estate business and an online networking business. A challenge but I hope to be successful at it one day. A girl can only set goals and work hard towards achieving them-no matter the circumstances. You can do the same too.