On Friday, June 2nd 2023 Sista and HCDI launched their new documentary Women Hold Up Half the Sky at Alliance Francaise. This important film highlights the political journey of 3 women – Anthea Arukole, Marie Louise Carcasses and Melanie Shem- and also features an opening and a closing speech by MP Gloria King. The launching was attended by key officials such as MP Ralph Regenvanu, Deputy Lord Mayor Jenny Tasale Regenvanu and Mr. Guillaume Josso of the French Embassy, along with representatives from key INGOs and CSOs in Vanuatu.

Originating from Chairman Mao Zedong, the slogan Women Hold up Half the Sky was designed to point to the importance of women in all of society. As the film points out, Women hold up half the sky is often tempered though by the realization that they rarely make it to the Red Roof, whether in Vanuatu or in other parts of the world. As MP Gloria King mentioned in her speech, this is a problem because “Women’s representation in elite decision-making positions brings balance. As a canoe needs an outrigger to stay afloat, men need women and women need men to make decisions together for the betterment of our future generations.”

The equitable representation of women in our democratic system was one of the themes of the first ever Vanuatu National Feminist Forum which took place in November 2022 in Port Vila. As part of the 3rd Pacific Feminist Forum, it joined the national forums in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Cook Islands and Palau. In Vanuatu, it brought together over 70 women of different backgrounds and generations to share, learn and plan on how to work together for change.

The Forum’s outcome statement noted that:

“As women, we represent more than half of the population in Vanuatu. We acknowledge that the interests of women, families, and communities cannot be effectively protected and advocated for unless we are fairly and equitably represented in Parliament, in Councils, and in other key political spaces. We recognize that women already have the skills needed to hold these leadership roles, but are kept from doing so through lack of support, cooperation, and acceptance. Therefore, we want to see and work together for a future that includes:

  • Enabling legislative and funding mechanisms that ensure women’s meaningful representation in Parliament and Councils aiming for fair representation
  • Collaboration with and accountability of political parties in ensuring women’s representation
  • Increased emphasis on civic education, including voting rights, voter registration, the importance of joining parties, and holding parties accountable, especially for women
  • Increased educational awareness on how the political system works in relation to Vanuatu’s kastom governance structures and how to enable women’s political participation through these structures
  • Increased collaboration and support for women political candidates, including women supporting each other and men supporting women”.

HCDI’s Executive Director, Dr. Astrid Kersten, said that “When we heard, as part of the National Feminist Forum, the valuable experiences and insights of Vanuatu women in politics, especially those of Anthea, we were inspired to create this project. Of course, we were also inspired by the recent election of Ms. Gloria King who spoke at the forum as well. By becoming the only woman elected in our 52-member legislature, she ended over a decade of exclusively male rule within the halls of Vanuatu’s parliament. Her election also allowed Vanuatu to no longer be listed as only one of three countries in the world without female representation in their top governing bodies”.

Sista’s Executive Director, Ms. Yasmine Bjornum, noted that “In making this documentary, we decided to focus on the journeys of three women who are working at the Muncipal Council  -Anthea Arukole, Marie Louise Carcasses and Melanie Shem. We believe that hearing about their journeys and learning from their experiences will support and inspire all of us to build a stronger, and more representative democracy, with space and voice for everyone, supported by everyone”.

Women hold up half the sky was organized by Sista and HCDI, with funding support from the We Rise Coalition. Interviews were conducted by Sista staff and the film was produced by Starlight Photography, with artist Amelia Lovo producing a beautiful painting that provided the visual theme for the campaign.

Stay tuned for future screening dates at Alliance Francaise and online release of the video on the StanApStrong website and the Sista library.

Check out the short trailer StarLight Photography created for us!