Sista’s Program & Finance Manager Irene Abbock delivering a speech on behalf of Sista at the event. Photo: Blue Tree Production

On Friday 13th May, the annual ‘Artistes Femmes’ held to commemorate International Women’s Day by Alliance Francaise finally opened up to the public after being postponed due to Vanuatu’s first community transmission. The opening speech was conducted by Busi Vasconcellos and closed by Irene Abbock, Sista’s Program and Finance Manager, who reflected on lockdown and the impacts of COVID 19, and how this affected women differently than men, including higher rates of violence, more stress due to competing responsibilities of household chores and livelihood, and a need for women to be in leadership to ensure women’s voices are heard in decision making.


Sista’s Program & Finance Manager Irene Abbock delivering a speech on behalf of Sista at the event. Photo: Blue Tree Production

Irene promoted the importance of women’s voices being heard not only in decision making, but also in exchanging ideas and knowledge with each other.
This was the premise for the ‘Women’s Wisdom’ exhibition which encouraged older women to share their knowledge with younger women through postcards and to kickstart intergenerational dialogue.

Sista’s wall of display at the exhibition. Photo: Blue Tree Production

More than 30 women participated in the Women’s Wisdom exhibition and blank postcards were left at the exhibition to inspire others to write down their wisdom and knowledge.

Please see part of Irene’s speech below:

“Gudnaet long yumi everiwan,

Mi wantem tekem opportunity ia blong talem wan bigfala tankiu long yumi everiwan we yumi save stap long evening ia, 

Nem blong mi Irene mo tete mi wantem givem wan smol speech long behalf blong Sista folem smol wok we yumi displayem long rum ia .

Sista hemi honorem bigwan tumas blong hemi save tek part long Alliance Francaise annual exhibition we yumi Alliance yumi stap holem every year long International Women’s Day. 

International Women’s Day hemi wan day we yumi save celebratem social, economic, cultural mo political achievements blong yumi ol woman. 

Theme blong yumi lo yia ya hemi “ Gender Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” Blong high lightem theme blong yumi long yia ia mo reality weh yumi long Vanuatu yumi stap ko thru lem, Sista hemi wantem reflectem bigwan ol toktok blong late Grace Mera Molisa mo tabu Chief blong yumi Motarilavoa Hilda Lini. 

Afta 2 yias we yumi stap traem blong protektem yumi from sik ia COVID 19, long Satete namba 5 March, Ministry blong Helt hemi bin annocem first community aot brek blong COVID long Vanuatu. 

Long taem yia, instead blong yumi March raon lo Taon, folem plan mo tingting blong International Women’s Day wetem ol fellow activists mo allies blong yumi, be instead yumi remain lockdown long alert level 3. 

Long ol critical taem olsem hemi highlightem tu bigwan importance blong leadership blong yumi ol woman. 

Yumi everiwan long rum ia i save finis se national crisis ia bai hemi afektem yumi ol woman lo wan level we hemi moa diferen then yumi ol man. 

Yumi save lukim ol impacts finis wetem economy mo physical health blong yumi , be what about ol need blong mental healths blong yumi?

Bai mi save admitem se fulap long yumi ol working mamas yumi rely bigwan lo ol “haosgels” blong yumi blong helpem managem ol wan wan homes blong yumi. Ol woman ia nao oli stap mekem ol “invisible workloads” blong ol haos work, olsem tekem kea lo ol pikinini mo tu ol olfala blong yumi. 

Evri haos oli kat ol haosgels weta hemi wan woman aotsaet hemi kam wok blong yu or wan niece, sista, aunty or family memba nomo, plante long yumi, i no luk save yet se olgeta tu oli ol essential workers, ol haosgel oli playem wan bigfala part long workforce blong yumi mo lo development blong kantri ia. 

Sipos i kat fulap woman long leadership i tru bai olgeta oli save luk save mo considerem ol haosgels folem ol bigfala important roles blong olgeta ?

Sipos lockdown ia gavman hemi been tingting blong extendem bai yumi save luk moa man oli stap long haos beh i tru se bai olget tu oli participate bigwan ko long ol unpaid workload we yumi putum i stap blong ol woman mo ol mama long haos?

Bai olgeta i save contribute tu long ol domestic duties mo home scholem ol pikinini blong yumi? 

Bai olgeta i save wari mo mek sua se healthy kakai hemi stap long table blong haos oltaem?

Bai hart blong olgeta tu hemi heavy taem oli tingbaot ol 20 VT mama blong yumi we olgeta tu oli been affekted bigwan long taem blong lockdown?

Olsem late Grace Mera Molisa hemi talem: 

“Women must speak out, Stand up to be counted, Voice our opinions, Go out to be seen, Participate in decision making, Take control of ourselves and our actions.” 

Yumi ol woman Vanuatu hemi taem nao blong yumi toktok, blong yumi save kat voice blong yumi bakekn mo ol nara mama mo sistas blong yumi, mo helpem bigwan Vanuatu blong yumi thru long pandemic ia. 

Role we yu playem hemi important tumas, mo hemi taem blong yumi recognisem value blong ol unpaid work we yumi stap mekem, domestic mo community care from hemia nao hemi wanem we bai save ova kamem yumi lo ol challenging time ia. YU YU IMPORTANT TUMAS ! 

Wetem suitausen blong COVID hemi important se ol voice blong yumi ol woman hemi part blong decision making mo how tugeta yumi save respond i ko long hem, olsem Chief Hilda Lini hemi talem se “ tugeta vois blong man mo woman hemi mas stap insaet long decision making blong helpem buidlem up Vanuatu tuegta lo wan stret fasin mo wei” 

Yumi mas kat balance, Vanuatu hemi blong yumi everiwan mo tete Vanuatu hemi needem yumi tumas. 

Sista hemi glad tumas blong save contribute wetem wan “Women’s Wisdom” wall we hemi wan collection blong wise advase, mo experiences we ol mama mo ol nara woman oli wantem givem long ol yangala mama mo mo ol yangafala gel blong oli save transformem ol pain mo suffering we oli ko through lem folem ol wan wan challenges long laef blong olgeta oli save kat tru pawa mo wisdom. 

Mi wantem tekem moment ia blong talem wan bigfala tankiu i ko long yumi everi woman blong Vanuatu we yumi stap long ol smol corna blong yumi be yumi yet i stap contribute bigwan i long nation building blong yumi. 

So tugeta, yumi holem hand mo wok towardsem goal blong yumi blong putum moa woman long leadership blong oli save representem yumi lo ol spaces ia. 

Mi wantem talem wan bigfala tankiu long Alliance Francaise, mo We Rise Coalition we hemi wan long ol main key donors blong Sista mo wetem hemia Australian Government blong funding blong project ia. 

Happy International Women’s Day today and every day!”