Just writing some thoughts down about how angry I am about the blatant sexism and discrimination in Vanuatu by our key leaders both male and female, starting with the by-law in Blacksands regarding the outlawing of women wearing trousers and then the recent article in the Daily Post.
In response to the recent article in the Daily Post “Riding the Pink Bus”, I am appalled by the blatant sexist remarks from the President of the PVELTA Donald Satungia including:
- “Being a bus driver is one of the hardest jobs to have. It’s not an easy job for a woman”
- “The reason that women are not in higher positions such as in parliament is because their nature is soft and they aren’t strong enough to direct”
- “The strength of Vanuatu is when there is a home where the husband and wife do what God wants”
He also said that driving would be hard on our backs. So is pregnancy but you don’t see men objecting to that when it concerns the women in their lives!
These statements are not only discriminatory, they are largely inaccurate and a reflection of those who support the patriarchal suppression of women in our country.
Firstly I see that women are the strength and back bone of this country, I doubt that men can work 24 hours a day as many mothers and women do.
For myself I know there is not a moment where I really truly rest and switch off, yet men often come home and put their feet up and expect to be served like Vanuatu kings.
I know that many of my female friends and colleagues, including myself, are the major breadwinners of our homes and this behavior is unacceptable.
If I had 100 vatu for every time my husband and others have condemned me for being too strong, I would be a wealthy woman by now!
In this society women are expected to be “quiet and soft” and then that very same quietness and softness is used as an excuse to why we are not good enough for high leadership positions. This is hypocrisy in itself!
Mr. Satungia also said that God intended for men to be the head of the house and that women are to follow. Last time I checked not all people in Vanuatu are Christian.
Our beloved constitution gives us the right to live our lives freely without discrimination, so why is it that women are constantly discriminated against?
Women deserve protection, freedom of movement, the choice to have children or not to, the freedom to choose our own careers and religion.
We also can choose whether we want to get married or not, and if we do get married, we can choose if we wish to assume our husband’s family name.
Women are able to choose their own destiny.
Even if we look to the Bible and truly read it, the biggest lesson and teaching from God is the power and right we have for personal choices in our lives. Who has the right to condemn us for our God given and constitutional rights?
It is time to take a stand and make a change. Women are not the property or tools of men but the heart and soul of this beautiful nation.
I do have my fears though for what women will become if our lives are continually oppressed.
Niki Taiwia is a local humanitarian journalist and works for a not-for-profit organisation in Vanuatu.
Niki has set up a safe house for Ni-Vanuatu children from difficult backgrounds (disability and victims of sexual abuse) and assists single mothers with the ultimate goal of empowering people who are in vulnerable positions.
The passionate human rights activist says, ‘I believe in the power of advocacy and providing a voice for those who want to tell their stories but are fearful or not confident in doing so. Many issues in Ni-Vanuatu culture are seen as taboo to talk about but it is essential to bring these topics to light to change women’s position in society.’
Through her advocacy, Niki has met many vulnerable women who recognize the benefit of sharing their stories as not only a form of therapy and relief, but also as a way to empower and give hope to others who are in similar situations.
Sista Magazine is honoured to collaborate with Niki to assist women in vulnerable and disadvantaged situations to share their stories. ‘This is a way in which we can hear women and girls’ stories and raise a voice through embracing each other,’ says Niki. ‘So Speak Up Sista!’