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October 20-24, 2014; Kolonia, Pohnpei

Representatives and delegates from the four (4) states of the Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Pohnpei, Yap and Kosrae), the national government, development partners and regional and international organizations met in Kolonia, Pohnpei, from October 20th-24th, 2014, for the third (3rd) FSM Women’s Conference, hosted by the Pohnpei Women’s Council. The attendees discussed gender issues surrounding the theme of the conference, “Maintaining Our Culture to Inspire Change.” Thirty-one (31) delegates from Chuuk State attended the conference.

The 3rd FSM National Women’s Conference was honored by the presence of its keynote speaker, Ms. Shamimah Ali, the Executive Director of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Center. Ms. Ali spoke of her inspiring work to end violence against women in her home country. This introduced one of the major focuses of the conference, the elimination of violence against women. Other focuses of the conference included the rights of persons living with disabilities, the challenges of FSM’s economic outlook, access to education and health, women in business, HIV/AIDS in the islands, political participation by women, senior citizens, gender and climate change, sustainable agriculture, and food security.

Besides Ms. Ali’s address, there were many other highlights of the conference. To begin, the President of the FSM, His Excellency Emmanuel “Manny” Mori, encouraged the attendees to work together and to take political office. Ms. Evelyn Adolph, the Executive Director of the Office of SBOC, updated the participants on the status of the FSM Economy, and emphasized the importance of women’s contributions to it, a theme which Ms. Kiki Stinnett continued in her presentation on the FSM Women in Business Network, Inc. There were presentations from development partners including Ms. Tonni Ann Broder from UN Women who spoke about Advancing Gender Justice in the Pacific, Ms. Pasha Carruthers, Climate Change Advisor SPC-PSIP who presented on the topic of gender and climate change, and Mr. SoniMalaulau, from the Pacific Prevention of Domestic Violence Program, who described his organization’s work with Pacific region police forces to combat violence against women. The former Vice President of Palau, The Honorable Sandra Pierrentozi, encouraged the participants to engage in political leadership and influence policy making. Besides these, there were many other knowledgeable and inspiring speakers. Everyday refreshments and lunch were provided by the Pohnpei Women’s Council members, and dinners were sponsored by several prominent government and traditional leaders.

One of the outcomes of the conference was the formation of an FSM National Women’s Council (NWC). This body will serve as the voice of the four states’ umbrella women’s organizations, including the Chuuk Women’s Council. The FSM NWC, as a national effort, will represent the combined voice of women in the FSM and be better able to work with other women’s networks regionally and globally. Two (2) members from each state and two (2) national government members will serve as the National Women’s Council. From Chuuk, Ms. Kiki Stinnett, (NGO) and Ms. Eleanor Setik, (Government) are the two temporary representatives for the inaugural NWC, pending the Chuuk State Governor endorsement.

Other outcomes of the conference included those listed in the Outcomes Document, which is attached. Some highlights include a commendation of the State of Kosrae for its Family Protection law which addresses the domestic violence issue (#1), a call for the placement of gender development focal officers at high levels of government (#8), a recognition of the importance of women in sustainable agriculture (#15), and a call for governments to adopt measures that promote respect for the safety of women and girls in school (#6). In addition, with relevance to the theme of “Maintaining Our Culture to Inspire Change,” the conference noted the “importance of culture and traditional mechanisms of decision making processes,” and the need for education of youth about decision making in this society and that it should account for traditional decision-making structures and processes.

The conference’s recommendations included the following:

  • State delegations to mainstream gender development into their work to align it with a more engaged sustainable approach, keeping in mind the importance of preserving Micronesian cultural heritage. (#3)
  • State delegations to advocate for the passage of the legislations highlighted in the resolutions produced from this conference so that community awareness on the new laws can be undertaken nationwide. (#4)
  • The Family Health and Safety Survey to be highlighted as a key measure to assist the governments in gauging the need to urgently enact relevant legislation. (#6)

In addition, the heads of delegations from the states and the national government signed seven (7) of resolutions at the close of the conference. These included a resolution urging ratification of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities; a resolution urging the state legislatures to enact family safety legislation; a resolution urging the state legislatures to enact maternity leave legislation; and a resolution to seek assistance from the government to develop political participation toolkits.

The Chuukese delegation was invited to present about women’s progress in our home state. Mrs. Kiki Stinnett presented about the work of the Chuuk Women’s Council in the areas of Income, Social Services, Education, Health, and Infrastructure/Environment. These were the five (5) top priorities for Chuuk state public sector funds use as highlighted in the ADB/Japan Special fund 2010-2012 community consultations. The Chuuk Women’s Council has used these recommendation priorities as impetus both to strengthen existing programs and projects and also to construct new program ideas. The recommendations from the survey form much of the backbone of our five (5) year strategic action plan.

Mrs. Stinnett’s presentation not only presented the results of the survey, with community-identified problems and solutions, but also highlighted the work CWC has already done and is doing in the five (5) priority areas. These programs and projects, such as the Adopt a School project and the Healthy Lifestyles Program, as well as our coalitions and partnerships like the Domestic Violence Coalition and our work with the Chuuk Youth Council, simultaneously work towards development in the five priority areas, while also dovetailing with the focuses, outcomes, and recommendations of the National Women’s Conference. Additional these CWC programs support the progress towards achieving the Millennium Development goals (MDG) and the FSM Strategic Development Plan. For example, the CWC and the Pohnpei Women’s Council established the FSM Women in Business Network, Inc., (WIBN) in March, 2013. The CWC continues to promote and foster the collaboration and capacity building of women in business in Chuuk, and invited women at the conference from Yap and Kosrae states to join in the WIBN. This became Outcome number nine (9) of the conference. In addition, the passage of the Age of Consent Law following the Chuuk state Pre-Conference in September is an indication of the CWC’s ongoing work towards gender justice in these islands.