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Sinei Nonomum me Wisom

Faniten Kinamwen non Family Ekkesiwin

(People for Change:  Character and Responsibilities)

CWC Annual Conference

Session #2

October 12th, 2017


Session #2 kicked off in the Truk Stop conference facility at 10:00am with songs of praise followed by an opening prayer from Reverend Steioshy Manuel.  Master of Ceremonies, Ms. Juliana M. Sos, then introduced Mr. Sigmond Silluk, representing the municipality of Weno, who officially opened the two-day conference.

CWC president, Kiki Stinnett, then welcomed conference attendees and expressed sincere appreciation to the Office of Minority Health Resource Center (OMHRC), whose sponsorship made this event possible.

Keynote speaker, Ms. Dionisialyn “Dion” Bernard, Department of Justice, assistant secretary for the Human Trafficking Division presented “Strengthening Capacity, Building Roles within the FSM Government on Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, and Opportunities in Law Enforcement for Women”.

In 2012 FSM (Federated States of Micronesia) enacted a Human Trafficking law in response to the “blue house” brothel case in Guam.  Assistant secretary Dion congratulated CWC for successfully advocating to increase the age of consent from 13 to 18.  This consent law supported two recent cases, one of which she won.

However, the sad reality remains.  Human trafficking and sexual assault still occur within FSM.  In 2016 human trafficking cases filed in Chuuk involved parents who facilitated the sexual activity of their minor-aged daughters for profit.  Assistant secretary Dion challenged all conference participants to make changes within their own families, villages, and churches by “breaking the silence” on this modern vestige of slavery.  In silence, you are complicit with the perpetrator of any incident of human trafficking or sexual assault.

Conference participants were inspired by Assistant Secretary Dion’s presentation and the approach that she advocates, called “community policing”.   Community policing engages and challenges people to communicate, share information, and report inappropriate activities to the authorities.  This approach further strengthens relationships among members of the community.

Assistant Secretary Dion encouraged women and youth to engage in this community policing effort as well.  She touched on barriers facing women in the workforce and emphasize the importance of stronger representation of women in decision-making processes within the family and community.   She went on to announce open positions within her office and asked all interested individuals to apply.

Assistant secretary Dion encouraged CWC to continue raising awareness of human rights and the impact of these rights within the context of our current cultural climate.  Her presentation defined the key elements of human trafficking as:  act, means, and purpose.

The primary challenges and barriers to effectively combatting human trafficking are: insufficient government support for child protection services, insufficient funding, and insufficient counselling resources for victims.
During the interactive portion of assistant secretary Dion’s presentation, several questions focused on identifying specific practices and beliefs within Chuukese culture that enable domestic violence and human trafficking to occur.  Conference participants unanimously agreed that abuse or domestic violence against women and children are utterly inconsistent with our cultural traditions and values. Yet some people continue to use “culture” to excuse or rationalize these repugnant and crimes. 

Age of consent law:  benefits

  • Supports prosecution of human trafficking cases
  • Encourages government to focus on providing the needed Services to support the Protection of the Child and Domestic Violence cases

Age of consent law:  next steps

  • Strengthen the collaboration of both national and state government agencies to improve support services to CSO’s and NGO’s
  • Provide funding for education outreach
  • Seek support from the Department of Justice, A.G.’s Office and Department of Public Safety to assist in enforcement (age of consent / human trafficking)
  • Strengthen partnership among government agencies and stakeholders. Seek support from Chuuk Leadership to assist with investment in policies and women’s and family programs

 Assistant secretary Dion’s presentation was followed by the panel discussion, “Navigating Personal Well-Being & Sexuality: Sexuality & Gender & Reproductive Health”.  Eleanor S. Sos, chief of Chuuk Public Health, facilitated this discussion.  Chief Eleanor expressed deep appreciation to OMHRC (Office of Minority Health Resource Center) and the University of Guam for establishing this curriculum in the Chuukese and Chomorro communities in partnership with CWC and another NGO from Marianas.

This panel discussion was limited to a high-level overview and introduction as each of the ten lessons requires ninety minutes to complete.  CWC conference attendees will be the ones to invite Chief Eleanor and her staff into their local communities to teach the full curriculum.

After the panel discussion Sincera Fritz presented on HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and common women’s health concerns.  The presentation prompted participants to ask several questions regarding sexual health.  The information presented, and subsequent discussion provided the participants with a better understanding of their own sexual health, and the knowledge gained will help them to knowledgeably discuss these topics within their families.

While the women’s plenary was going on in the conference room, the men had their own session in the TV Room.  Reverend Manuel and Mr. Mori-M Mori facilitated the men’s session and addressed some of the curriculum activities.

The afternoon session, facilitated by Jacinta Lippwe and supported by Ms. Chelsea Yleizah and Rev. Manuel, focused on drugs and alcohol as factors contributing to risky behavior. Anger management and suicide prevention were also addressed. The presenters went on to discuss the range of available services catering to mental illness and special needs patients.  Conference participants, some of whom have experienced these issues with family members, utilized the opportunity to interact with the presenters.  Ms. Jacinta stressed that there are new approaches for the service delivery to mental patients and the government encourages family involvement.  

CWC Board member, Ms. Faustina Francis gave the closing remarks by thanking everyone and most especially the presenters and assistant secretary Bernard for her remarks.

Dr. Rita Mori was the keynote speaker for day two of the conference.  The central theme of her presentation was the importance “People for Change: character and responsibilities” (sinei nonomum me wisom) “for peace in the family” (faniten kinamwen non family).

It is important for each of us to know, who we are, understanding our character and responsibilities.  Harmony within the family is the responsibility of both the father and mother.  Only when there is harmony within the family can the community, island, state and nation be at peace.

It is important for the mother to stay healthy because if she is sick, she will not be able to work and care for the children.  The children will not be able to go to school because the husband is too worried trying to get his wife well.  The extended family gets involved trying to help the sick mother off island but is unable to pay the expenses.  The government hospital helped by providing the means to refer the sick mother off island but now the hospital does not have money to purchase medicine for the other patients.

A family that knows and understands the importance of their responsibilities will do whatever is required to care for their own family to stay healthy and enjoy quality of their life.  

Dr. Rita stressed the importance for women to be healthy prior to and during pregnancy. The concept of “Womb to Tomb” means preparing for pregnancy by ensuring that every mother is in the best health possible, and then to maintain good health throughout pregnancy by getting antenatal care to ensure a healthy delivery.  Planning and preparing for pregnancy will minimize complications such as premature delivery, low birth-weight and stillbirths.  Women have the right to choose when and how many children to have.  By doing so, they will have increased their chances to have uncomplicated pregnancies and healthier children.

The FSM Statistics Office show that teenage pregnancy continues to increase.  Chuukese women are the first caretakers of life and of our families.   Are you healthy?  Is your family healthy and happy?  “People for Change”.  “Be a woman for change”.  Remember the remarks made by our Senator Gardenia Aisek, “Woman Can Do”.  Be an instrument for Change…

Chief Eleanor Setik gave the recap and highlighted some of the points from the previous day. Ms. Nite Christoph then closed the morning session with an emotional song, describing the unconditional love a mother has for her child.  That beautiful song touched the hearts of many, unleashing tears throughout the room.

The afternoon session started with a session titled “Impact of the Age of Consent Law”, by Kiki Stinnett.  She shared the history of this law and highlighted some of the hard work leading to passage on September 23, 2014.  CSL 12-14-18 increased the age of consent from 13 years old to 18 years.  This change focused on the responsibility of both parents to their child. The age of consent law now defines a minor as anyone under the age of 18 years.

Kiki also, explained the legal obligation of the parents to ensure the safety of their minor children. It is against the law for a minor to purchase or consume alcohol, cigarettes or betelnut.  Minors can not drop out of school.  Minors are not allowed to fly unaccompanied on airplanes. Minors accused of crimes can not be tried as adults.

Participants (60% adults, 40% minors) were surveyed on the first day of the conference to assess public awareness and knowledge of the age of consent law:

  • Aware of the law?            52% responded YES / 25% responded NO
  • Understand the law?         35% responded YES / 57% responded NO / 8% responded DON'T KNOW
  • Is the law effective?          50% responded YES / 50% responded NO

As a result of increasing the age of consent to 18, more parents are now hesitant to let their underage girls marry.  However, survey results indicate that further outreach is needed to increase compliance with this legislation.

Reverend Manuel addressed participants, thanking CWC leadership for bringing this conference to fruition.  He went on to reaffirm the family as the foundation upon which society is developed.  “Ekichu tipechu angechu” (working together) is a tradition of Micronesian culture promoting vitality, health, harmony, and success at the family, community, state, and national levels.

CWC Board member, Ms. Susan Danis, delivered closing remarks thanking participants and encouraging everyone to reflect upon the discussions of the past two days.  She ended by acknowledging and thanking the Office of Minority Health Resource Center for their continued support and funding the CWC annual conference.  The conference was closed with a prayer.