In her Book “Hard Choices” Hilary Rodham Clinton wrote “All of us face hard choices in our lives. Life is about making such choices. Our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become.”
The International Womens Day March 8th 2018 will be a day ingrained into my mind-a day I will remember for a very long time. The bougainvillea vines flowed into the dining space. Sitting down on a beautiful morning sharing brunch at the elegant Winemakers Daughter Winery and Tasting Bar in Otaki (http://www.winemakersdaughter.com/), I was honoured to sit amongst my good friends of Melanesian Women but more importantly the UN Women of Wellington. My good friend Fiona Morris-our guest speaker spoke eloquently on her experiences of UN Markets for Change with her husband, the famous photographer Murray Llyod as VSA Volunteers in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam-a catgeory 5 hurricane had long damaging effects in 2015. The photographs were raw and powerful and spoke on the impacts of severe climate changes that our Vanuatu Women had faced to try and make ends meet. A successful exhibition headed by Janet Bayly, the Director of the Mahara Gallery in Waikanae followed and provided a space and platform for these stories of trials, hardships and emotions to be told and shared-the work of Fiona and Murray needed to be honoured and acknowledged and shared to the women of the world. (http://www.maharagallery.org.nz/mahara/generate_section_Final.cgi?sesid=dntbot_166191YnDpoJ3g2X6&secno=65010&crc=37286398)
But what stemmed out from this successful breakast meeting themed “achieving gender equality and empowering rural women and girls- together we can empower rural women in the Pacific” was the miracle seedling being planted to get the women of melanesia together in Wellington. It was time Wellington and the world saw, valued, recognised and acknowledged the presence of our melanesian women. They have so much to contribute. They are powerful women. They are women who are on the front lines of poverty, conflict, climate change, food insecurity and global economic crisis. And they are not alone. The rural women of the other third world countries share the exact same hardships, endurances, values and challenges too.
It was time we leveraged ourselves with these UN Women, a group of professional women who have so much to give and contribute. They were helping our rual melanesian women with the Meri Bus Project in PNG. This worthy cause was and is still life changing which is benefitting our women and girls lives so they are free from sexual violence and their safety is guaranteed each day as they return home from work or schools.
The Wellington Melanesian Womens Group was a CHOICE I had to whisper to my good friend Glorious Oxenham. Something had to change. Someone had to make a move. There is a new generation and blood of women who are willing to make sacrifices and lead. We smelt the urgent need for change. We tasted that sea salt of change. We felt that wind of change. The sails and paddles were re-adjusting on our wakas and canoes. It was time our foot and hand prints walk the talk of change. We are going to sail that big Pacific Ocean. Together with Christine Hundleby and Ancey Wamiri, we collaborated our ideas of supporting our rural melanesian women. That seedling germinated and had a breath of life into it. Little did I know how well it was going to impact or be recieved.
Three months onwards as we set the big sails on this big canoe, welcomed onboard the melanesian women and friends crew, refined and honed the sails and paddles and continued supporting our local women I wondered, how far this group will go. My gut instincts tell me it is going to be influencing and impacting. It will be positive. It will be emotional. It will touch womens lives to be able to share their stories of struggles and heroism. It will be life changing but more importantly, this will be a long lasting legacy on a global stage in terms of social enterpreneurism. It is about passion over profits and so it should be. This is a community of like-minded women who are gathering socially to share a synergy of vision and goals to support their women in the rural melanesia.
Equipped with a vision of being and providing a platform for our rural melanesian womens voice, it is also armed with a mission of partnering, supporting, connecting and working alongside our global organisations, groups and investors to empowering our melanesian women both abroad and rurally in the Pacific. With growing support and online presence, this group has suddenly multiplied and made it’s mark. Melanesia needs a new breed of social entrepreneurs! There is an urgent need for us young melanesians to reach out to educate our youths in colleges, to work collaboratively with our goverments to provide beneficial incentives for businesses, to attract interest from investors so we can work on solutions together in a social capacity, and to be excited about creating new strategies and innovations that work.
Being the chairwoman of this newly established group of women, I feel very empowered to see the vision of social change. I feel extremely lucky to be supported in that role with these incredible women and I am grateful for that. I am empowered to see our men who are very supportive of the group step in and up to lend a hand. I feel even more lucky to witness our other non-melanesian friends get behind this initiative to make it grow. They come fully armed and equipped with unique skills and marketing opportunities. I am awestruck to see and hear our young people, in particular the youth and the young melanesian generations eagerly wanting to be engaged and more importantly say “use me as that weapon of change and impact too!” It made me realise the power of networking. It created a special space for our melanesian women to come together and share our powerful stories of social injustices, violence and emotional abuse. It provided a space for us to share healing with each other through cultural stories, songs, music and the pidgin language; to tell each other that we can walk this foreign journey together-side by side and not alone; to tell each other we are here for you; to celebrate our roles and achievements and more importantly to be an advocate to our rural women and girls.
I have big visions and goals for this group and I believe it will achieve a lot of good will in rural communities. More importantly, with the women coming together I see a lot of wonderful social projects being created from this group. The projects are exciting and engaging and are connecting.
Yes, it is safe to say that taking that leap of faith has been worth it.