To celebrate the International Women Day, let’s discover today Stephanie Ephraim a young feminist activist who is also a talented photographer. She will be showing her pictures at the exhibitions of the Alliance Française “Voices of Women” opening on Monday 12th March at 5pm.
Stephanie, can you tell us a little bit more about your background please?
Well, I have studied at Lycée Louis Antoine de Bougainville until year 13. While I was a student, I also was a rower, an athlete first and then a coach for younger girls. It was a very good experience, but in the same time I came through a lot of difficulties due to the fact that I was a woman.
These issues came up so strongly, that I started to get interested in issues of gender inequalities and that is how I became a gender activist. After my year 13, I registered at the Australian Pacific Technical College (APTC) to follow the community development courses. Then I started to be involved into women right actions, but I was just by myself, I didn’t join any organization.
I realized that on my own, I had so much more to learn, that is why I applied to many organization to work in this area. I was lucky enough to receive a positive answer, and to make my passion (women right) my daily job.
Recently I was granted a scholarship from a Canadian organization to follow a two year online training about women delivering young leaders program. The objective is to create feminist groups around the world to spread women right awareness. I will also have to attend several conferences in Vancouver.
During my studies, I started to take photos in 2015. Whenever I was posting my pictures online, I received a lot of good comments and I liked to see things under new or original angles. I got my own camera as a gift from a friend and I started to take more and more pictures. I have won several photography awards on various topics (Women in sports, traditional costume…).
According to you, how is the women situation in Vanuatu?
To me the principal problem is violence against women. Sexual violence, physical violence, emotional violence…Emotional violence is a really important part, even if most of the people ignore it because they think that is not really violence. For example, if there is a domestic fight, nobody will try to stop it because people think it is not their business, it is kind of a normal.
This violence isn’t only a problem because it is a violation of human rights, and no one wants or deserves to be a victim of violence. But it’s also a problem because it keeps women oppressed and stops them from accessing all of their other rights, like the right to work, the right to make decisions about their lives and the lives of their children, their access to good health, and their right to participate in community and political decision making. Because there is always a fear of violence.
What really shocks me as well is to see how women are neglected into the decision making process, particularly in the islands. They are doing a lot of work, they are often the first to get up in the morning and the last ones to go to bed at night. But in the same time, they are not acknowledged for what they are doing. On the other hand, there is a big difference with men. Men take all the decisions, they suffer less from violence and they receive more benefits from works. It is so unfair.
However I don’t think there is such a big difference between islands and city about how the women are treated. Their role at home don’t change that much.
According to you how the situation could be improved?
I think that government and all the associations or organizations have to work together to fight these issues. Everybody has to speak the same language about these issues (even though that could be in vernacular, Bislama, French or English) and to understand the same issues. If so, then nobody could deny the reality of the problem and would realize the necessity for actions.
What is the biggest achievement you are proud of?
(Take a short time to think) Well, I am very proud to have found a job where I can fight for women rights, because it was my passion when I was younger. And I was hungry to know more, to study more cases, to do more, in order to help the mamas, the sisters, the aunties, the pikininis of Vanuatu to have a happier future.
Thanks to Stephanie for your time and good luck with your career.
Stephanie’s photography: https://www.facebook.com/lavashots/
Alliance Française Exhbiition: https://www.facebook.com/events/194456484473299/
This article was originally published in the Vanuatu French Embassy website