sista-women-magazine-vanuatuToo often biblical and kastom rhetoric is used to justify the second-class treatment of women. For example it common to hear these things in Vanuatu – the husband is the head of the home and it is the woman’s responsibility to serve or the Bible says that woman must submit to man. It is also commonly agreed that a man is allowed to have a voice and can make decisions, but a woman cannot, because culturally there is no place for her at a nakamal.

In this modern age, we cannot pick and choose which biblical and kastom rhetoric to drawn from. If we interpreted the teachings of the Bible literally, then we would still be promoting slavery, not allowed to wear clothing made of both linen and wool, not allowed to eat shellfish, tattoos would be forbidden and we would not be allowed to have different crops in the same field, among many other things.

Vanuatu is a country that is founded by Christian principles, culture and traditional knowledge with the vision of achieving a stable, sustainable and prosperous nation. This vision is being implemented through Vanuatu 2030: The People’s Plan, our National Sustainable Plan, which is the localized version of the Sustainable Development Goals and is a commitment by the government. Under the society pillar, it seeks to ensure Vanuatu maintains a vibrant cultural identity underpinning a peaceful, just and inclusive society that “upholds human dignity and where the rights of all Ni-Vanuatu including women, youth, the elderly and vulnerable groups are supported, protected and promoted in our legislation and institutions.”

It is not possible for Vanuatu to fulfill it’s potential and achieve the Vanuatu we want if we continue to hold women back. If we are truly committed to achieving a stable, sustainable and prosperous nation, then we must recognize women as equal citizens. This poem was inspired by the rhetoric that is often used to justify the discrimination of women in Ni-Vanuatu society and treats them as second-class citizens. It intentionally plays on words and aims to explore the strength of women by challenging the rhetoric that is often fed to women as a means of oppression. It is written by Yasmine Bjornum, founder of Sista and was featured at Alliance de Francaise IWD 2018.


Sapos hemi tru se ‘Man is made is God’s image’

Mi luk se hemi ol woman

Wea hemi moa klosap long image blong God

From ol man hemi no gat power

Blong makem laef

Hemi ol woman nomo


Sapos hemi tru se ‘Woman came from man’s rib’

From wanem mi no luk

Wan baby hemi kam aot long wan rib?

Hemi ol woman wea hemi gat power

Blong bonem baby

Mo giv kaikai wetem titi blong hem


Sapos hemi tru se, ‘Man is stronger than woman’

Mi luk se hemi ol man

Wea hemi usem strength

Blong olgeta blong killem laef

Afta ol woman

Hemi usem strength

Blong olgeta blong makem laef


Mifala harem fulap toktok

Long saed blong Bible mo Kastom

Wea hemi stap downem woman

Mo talem aot se woman hemi no gat raet


Sapos hemi tru se God hemi giv power

Blong ol woman blong makem laef

Hemi meanem se ol woman

Hemi gat power tu

Blong makem laef wea hemi wantem


Mifala mas choosem story wea hemi reflectem power blong yumi.


This article was originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s October edition of the Life and Style magazine