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 Chuuk Women’s Council Annual Conference 

“People for Change: Character and Responsibility” 

“Sinei Nonomuch me Wisach”

 

September 15 & 16 2017

Truk Stop Patio 

     Weno, Chuuk        

 

The 2017 CWC Annual Conference, “People for Change: Character and Responsibility” translation in Chuukese “Sinei Nonomuch me Wisach” took place September 15 to 16, 2017 at the Truk Stop Hotel in Weno, Chuuk.  Funding for the first portion of the conference was provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).  The primary focus of the conference was to highlight the direct linkage between non-communicable diseases and poor lifestyle habits such as over-consumption of foods, poor food choices and physical inactivity.  Thus, initiatives such as the PACAM/USAID supported CWC Home Gardening Project are critical for ensuring that communities have the skills and resources to grow local and healthy foods to lessen the risk for non-communicable diseases. 

 

The conference was well attended with more than one hundred women joining the conference.  Participants included representatives from the government sector, international organizations, churches and community.  Ms. Sirene Killion was the MC, and Rev. Steioshy Manuel gave the opening prayer.                                                                                                         

Chuuk State House Representative, Wisney Nakayama first thanked CWC and WHO for supporting this event.  He then described the role his mother had in teaching her children the importance of preserving cultural traditions.  She taught her children that preserving cultural traditions extended beyond story-telling but included respecting the environment and protecting the ocean and land, so that future generations have its bounty to enjoy.  He stressed that climate change has already impacted food security and health in Chuuk, and that is why programs like the CWC Home Gardening project, which is funded through the PACAM USAID grant, is a critical step for minimizing the impacts of climate change and ensuring that the land and ocean continue to produce healthy foods.  He encouraged everyone to live healthy by eating local and nutrition foods.  He closed his remarks by encouraging everyone to plant and promote the “go local concept” in our islands, and to think about the impact climate change is making in our lives.  

Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr. Gideon represented the governor’s office.  He began his speech with the slogan, “Women can do”, which was followed by, “Don’t underestimate the power of women”.  He stated, “Women are the key to a successful family and please continue to make the positive changes required of you in your family, church, community and our State”.   

 

Chuuk First Lady, Mrs. Berista Elimo acknowledged everyone on behalf of her family and the Second Lady, Sanrine Akapito who was preent at the conference.  First Lady Elimo encouraged both women and men to support their children’s education, and to teach them the importance of our traditional cultural and values.  “Teach your children to read their school books, and more importantly help them read the Bible to better understand the principles of love”. 

Kiki Stinnett provided the overview of the conference, and thanked World Health Organization for funding the first session of the conference.   She introduced the keynote speaker, Senator Gardenia Aisek of Tonowas, and the first woman elected to the Chuuk State Senate.  Senator Aisek received her Master’s in Business Administration from the U.S., and her professional experience includes the College of Micronesia, Chuuk Campus and the Northern Marianas College.  She returned to Chuuk to co- manage the Blue Lagoon Resort.  She served as Chuuk’s First Lady when her husband was Governor.  Senator Aisek was the first woman Director of Education, serving from 2010 to 2014, and implemented the Chuuk Education Reform.   

Senator Aisek, presentation focused on “People for Change” and she specifically mentioned that people can either make negative or positive change.  She continued that change can be simply choosing local food over imported processed food or avoiding alcohol.  She encouraged to determine if the changes they are making in their lives are positive or negative. She shared the creation story from the book of Geneses which highlights that God will assist in both good time and bad times, and help you make positive changes in your personal and professional lives.  She reminded those present that we were all made in God’s image, and we are beautiful, have purpose and talent.  Moreover, people need to practice the characteristics of being generous, gentle, courageous, and honest, to show mercy, and to treat other with respect and love.   

The senator shared a personal story about growing up with her beloved grandmother who told her that she was black and ugly.  She believed her and was sad.  One day she confronted her father, and blamed him for her dark skin and ugliness.  Her father said, “It’s not the color of your skin or how you look that determines who and what you are, but rather what is in your heart that matters”.   Those simple words instantly changed the way she viewed herself.  

She closed by saying that everyone needs God in their lives to help them make appropriate and positive change and she quoted Clint Eastwood who said “if you want to make things better, then you must do it yourself . . . and he added “the only constant is life is change”.   

Dr. Vita Skilling’s presentation highlighted non-communicable diseases (NCD), which are declared a health crisis in the FSM, and especially in Chuuk.  Her presentation focused on nutrition, fitness, and health.  She emphasized that our body is a temple of God, therefore, it is our responsibility to keep it clean and beautiful.  She said that one of the ways to limit food intake, is to use and accurate means to measure food portions by using measuring cups and spoons, rather than measuring by using our fingers and arms.   

She discussed the benefit of the MODFAT program which was created to fit our Micronesian lifestyles.  This MODFAT program is highly recommended and everyone who adopts this program as part of their daily healthy lifestyle is healthier as a result.   

She stated that it is unfortunate that we have easy access to unhealthy processed food, which is imported and often cheaper or less work than our home grown and more nutritious foods.  Today, children are exposed to a higher risk of obesity today’s lifestyle means less physical activities with more sitting around chatting with friends on Facebook. She talked about the important role women play to ensuring the health and well-being of families.  As home and family managers, women are the primary caretakers of households, and she encouraged the audience to participate in the CWC home garden project to provide nutritional food to families.    

Dr. Tekaai Nelesone a physician from Chuuk State Hospital, described the harmful effects of Diabetes Type II and the biology of other NCDs.   Dr. Nelesone said that NCDs continue rise in the Pacific Islands including Chuuk and the FSM.  He noted that in 2011, the government declared NCDs as a crisis which will have significant negative impacts on the economy and the, social and cultural environments.  The risk factors that increase the likelihood of NCDs include:  Smoking/chewing betel nuts; poor diet – high sugar, salt & spicy consumption; lack of physical activities; alcohol/substance abuse and; overeating.   

 

 

He said that the way forward to combat NCDs is to recognize that these diseases are everyone’s concern.  The government, health care sector and community should work towards eliminating these diseases.  Government should work to develop policies that halt the progress of NCDs such as increasing taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and sugary and salty food products.  Dr. Nelesone closed his presentation by encouraging everyone to make changes to their behaviors regarding food and diet. 

 

Mr. Julian Sivas, CWC PACAM Food Safety & Security Expert (FSSE) and his team were there to support his presentation.   Mr. Sivas’ presentation included the distribution of the “STEP-BY-STEP HOME GARDENING & FOOD PRESERVAION BOOKLET”, which is linked to adapting climate change, and recognizing its impact of health and nutrition and benefits.  The participants were very interested to learn how to start their own home garden, and asked many good questions.  Everyone was happy to receive the gardening booklets, which guides them to best practices for raising fruits and vegetables.   Ending his presentation, Mr. Sivas mentioned that the home gardening project was made possible through the generosity of the American People and through the U.S. AID Program.  

 

 

Dr. Lolita Ragus, Researcher, COM-FSM, Chuuk Campus and her COM CRE Team were the final presenters.  Their presentation was focused on the value of growing and consuming Nutritional food.  She highlighted the nutritional value of local fruits and vegetables, and the health benefits of them.  Dr. Ragus shared healthy recipes with the women.  

 

 

 

Kiki Stinnett made the closing remarks and expressed her genuine appreciation to everyone who attended CWC Annual Conference, and most of all to the facilitators who took time from their busy schedules to make the conference a success.  She thanked the participants for attending, and invited those from the lagoon islands to stay and attend evening sessions at the CWC Center and to join day two activities.  

  

The Evening of Day 1 

The night Session took place at the CWC Center for the campers and CWC members. Dr. Rita Mori and Mrs. Sincera Fritz facilitated the two-hour session. The topic of this session was reproductive health issues, followed by a Q & A session.  The participants were very engaged and asked the presenters several questions regarding reproductive health. 

  

Day 2:  September 16th at CWC SMPoll Memorial Center      

Breakfast was provided for twenty-two (22) women who had slept over in order to participate in the practicum session.   

 

Kiki Stinnett opened the morning session at 9:00am by welcoming the participants to Day 2 of the CWC Annual Conference.  She provided a recap of Day 1, and reported that about 122 people attended the event.  The floor was open for discussion for the women to share their experiences and lessons learned from the previous day. 

 

After the discussion, 36 women attended and participated in the home gardening practicum which was facilitated by Mr. Erlip Moses, Sapuk Community Liaison, to the CWC PACAM Home Gardening Project.  The practicum was designed to provide the participants with the needed skills to start their own home gardens.  His presentation focused on the practicum (best practice) training designed to help women interested in starting their own home garden.  Mr. Moses demonstrated the importance of soil management, 3 bin compost system, mulching, pallets, intercropping, liquid fertilizer and grey water system.  He shared all the best practices using local resources.  Women were provided the opportunity to practice under Mr. Moses guidance.  Participants stated that they were extremely satisfied with the training, and have a better understanding of the ideal home garden. 

 

After the practicum, representative from IOM, Ms. Victoria and Ms. Alyson presented their program titled, “Assessing the Effect of Natural Disaster on Health and Safety to Women and Girls”.  The presentation demonstrated that natural disasters impact females disproportionately compared to males.   IOM is examining the impact that natural disasters are having on women in FSM, and as CWC members to participate in the study. 

 

 

Attendees from the lagoon islands expressed their appreciation to the CWC leadership for making space available within the Chuuk Women’s Council Facility which made it possible for many of these ladies to stay overnight for the 2nd day of activities.  A special sincere “Kinisou Chapur” (thank you) to WHO which supported the conference.   

 

 

Submitted by:  Kiki Stinnett