Too 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.
RISE WOMAN VANUATU RISE
This article was originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s October edition of the Life and Style magazine