Merilyn Tahi, director of Vanuatu Women’s Center, recently attended the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of Ministers for Women took place in Suva, Fiji, from 2 to 5 October 2017 and shares her thoughts on women’s economic empowerment.

The purpose of the Conference was to share experiences and make recommendations to accelerate progress towards achieving gender equality and a full realisation of women’s human rights in the Pacific region.


Merilyn Tahi, Vanuatu Women’s Center

Before Vanuatu gained independence, there were not many women who were in the workforce. If they did work, it was mostly in the garden. Gradually since then we have seen more women working in different areas.

When we talk about women’s economic empowerment, we have to think about how it translates to ‘economic independence’. Today there are women who work with the expectation to support the whole family.

If you are working because you have the responsibility to provide for the needs of others, that is not economic empowerment. When a woman is economically empowered, it means she’s independent and can make her own choices. She can decide how she wants to spend her money.

Tudei i gat fulap woman wea hemi wok. Bae sapos yu luk luk long reality blong Vanuatu, ol woman hemi stap makem wok olsem wan service provider – teaching, housekeeping, hotel, restaurant, hospital. I gat sam wea olgeta hemi holdem wok long gavman, bae I no fulap compared long ol man.

Tingting about gender hemi stap yet.

Sapos wan gel hemi aot long haos, hemi go blong karem money blong feedem family blong hem. Fulap woman oli wok blong takem money blong pem school fees mo puttem kai kai long table.


Ting ting blong ol women hemi stap yet wea olgeta wantem karem money wea hemi no blong hem wan. Ol gender tingting hemi stap hang behind wherever wan woman hemi go.

Taem wan gel hemi go long school, hemi blong helpem family. Yu go long wok, yu go blong helpem community. Ol gel hemi wan investment. Taem yu karem fes pay blong yu, yu mas go blong pem ol samting long haos. Ol boy hemi no gat samak expectation.

Taem bae yu married, expectation blong yu hemi change little bit. Now ia, yu mas helpem family blong man blong yu. Taem olgeta hemi takem yu mo pem bride price, yu mas go blong makem garden, makem kai kai, yu mas listen long ol parents blong husband blong yu. I gat fulap expectation.

Bifo independence, ol expectation hemi no olsem. Bae now ia hemi stap shift blong reflectem change wea hemi stap happen tudei. Afta ol woman hemi stap acceptem fasin ia. I gat sam woman wea hemi believe se hemi mas helpem family blong husband blong hem afta hemi tink se olgeta hemi boss. Fulap woman hemi become slaves to the husband’s family. I gat some family wea olgeta hemi no wantem se woman hemi helpem stret family blong hem from olgeta hemi pem bride price finis. That is not tradition. That is not right.

So when will a woman have a life for herself? For me, economic empowerment is when a woman is independent and manages money how she wants. Taem yu holdem money blong yu mo yu save usem blong pem clothes blong yu, makem haos blong yu, hemia hemi economic empowerment from yu gat independence and yu save makem choices wea hemi makem laef blong yu I gud.

Merilyn Tahi was sponsored by Care International to attend the Triennial.