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Program Background

Young women in Chuuk have few opportunities to learn in a safe environment about the myriad issues that are unique to the female gender.  At home and at school, adults are often silent about sexual health and violence against women.  Furthermore, there are very few opportunities for all Chuukese adolescents after high school but more so women, who are expected to marry young and have children.  The program provides young women with the opportunity to discuss issues unique to the female sex, as well as provide them with the tools and resources to make informed decisions about their futures. 

The Young Women’s Empowerment Program (YWEP) aims to holistically educate young women in a safe community about their bodies, sexuality, mental and physical wellness, and their connection to a healthy environment as well as provide them with opportunities to increase English language proficiency.  The desired program outcome is for young women to be able to make better informed choices about their lives.  There are two main components of the YWEP which are Educational Development and Health and Wellness:

Educational Development

·         Participants demonstrate increased English comprehension skills through oral interactions with facilitators and colleagues; Participants demonstrate the ability to discuss assignments in English;  Participants identify short and long-term educational goals and develop a plan to attain goals;  Participants complete assigned tasks and actively participate in program activities; and Participants discuss gender roles and discuss expectations and stereotypes of gender.

Health and Wellness

·         Participants are able to discuss the types of sexually transmitted diseases and prevention methods; Participants can define sexual intercourse and describe methods to prevent pregnancy;  Participants demonstrate an understanding of nutrition and physical fitness, through food choices and physical activities; Participants are able to identify the various forms of violence against women and techniques to prevent violence; and Participants are able to identify symptoms of depression and are able to discuss strategies to manage depression and stress.

Each of these components is designed to provide the young women with knowledge, educational resources, and enhanced literacy and practical skills to empower them to make the best decisions possible.  Young women learn critical skills for communicating, goal making, and disease and violence prevention.  Additionally, the program is conducted entirely in English in order to enhance English skills.  The many-faceted approach to this program prepares the young women of today to become empowered and to better understand/navigate the community in which they live.

Ten young women ages 15-21, attending Chuuk High School grades 10th through 12th were invited by Program Director Michelle Budwitz,  World Teach Volunteers and program co-instructors (Lexi Ritt, Annina Narhi, Nicole Tayrien and Ariela Moraru), and local co-instructor Gloria Rudolph to attend the 10 week program (February 10 – April 13, 2016).  All parents of participants younger than 18 years of age signed a consent form.  Participants 18 years or older were required to sign a consent form.  The program was held at the Chuuk Women’s Council Library in Nepukos Village, and sessions were held every Wednesday from 1:30 to 4:00 pm.

Program Schedule

Session 1:            Orientation and Review of the Program

Session 2:            Achievements of Women and Gender Roles

Session 3:            Developing Educational and Life Goals (short-term and long-term)

Session 4:            Effective Communication

Session 5:            Relationships and Love

Session 6:            Let’s Talk About Sex (Female and Male Anatomies/Sexual Intercourse/Pregnancy)

Session 7:            Sexually Transmitted & Vaginal Infections and Prevention

Session 8:            Health and Wellness

Session 9:            Gender Violence

Session 10:          Graduation and Party

Each session was a combination of lecture, discussion, videos educational and practical exercises, demonstration and game playing.  The benefits of the multi-learning approach are to enhance knowledge retention, as well as ensure that all learning styles are addressed in some manner.  The photographs on the following page reflect the different learning styles utilized during the program.  To increase knowledge retention and demonstrate understanding, at the end of each session a journal prompt was provided.  For example, “How do you feel about Chuukese gender roles? What would you change and what would you keep the same?”  The participants were required to respond to the prompt in their journals.  The reflection was then reviewed by the instructors to identify gaps in knowledge, or issues that may need to be addressed in subsequent sessions. 

Program Results:

Ten young women from grades 10th to 12th grade enrolled in class.  The youngest participant was 15 years old, and the eldest participant was 21 years of age.  Two students were in the 10th grade, three from the 11th grade and 5 from the 12th grade.  Eighty-percent of the young women successfully completed the program.  Successful completion was based on attendance to at least five of the nine educational sessions (Sessions 1-9).  The other two participants came to four out of the nine required educational sessions.  All participated in the graduation and party.

                                     

Participants who successfully completed the program were awarded with certificates, shell necklaces and framed group photographs.  Those who did not meet the completion requirements were not provided with certificates of completion.  IU Rudolph was awarded with the perfect attendance award for successfully coming to all 10 sessions.

The evaluation results showed that the session topic the participants (55%) like least was the session on Gender Violence.  Many of the young women felt that the topic made them feel angry and sad.    Many of the participants indicated that they have witnessed violence, and the session brought up issues that they did not want to think about or discuss.  One participant reflected, “This class makes me sad when I think about how mean human beings are to each other.”

The three sessions identified as favorites included Effective Communication (30%), Love and Relationships (30%), and Let’s Take About Sex (30%).  One participant reflected on her choice of Effective Communication, “The reason I selected this is because it has helped me communicate with my parents much better.”  In regards to Love and Relationships, one participant wrote, “I like this session the best because I realized that there are many types of relationships, and different types of love.”  Finally, a young woman who selected Let’s Talk About Sex, indicated that she did not have any prior understanding about the female anatomy or sexual intercourse.

Next Steps

YWEP has been funded for two more program cycles (June 13 to 17, and June 20 to 24) through the Let Girls Learn grant.  The program will run two consecutive summer intensives.  The summer intensives are five days, Monday-Friday from 10 am – 4 pm, 30 hours per week.  Thirty young women (15 per intensive) will be invited to participate.  The summer intensives will incorporate traditional arts including cooking, sewing and jewelry making.

Practical Skills’ Building have been added to the program:  Participants are able identify and purchase foods that are nutritionally sound and locally produced; Participants are able to cook a balanced meal that incorporates nutrition, healthy portion sizes and utilizes locally sourced foods;  Participants are able to make one traditional “pilak”-style skirt; and  Participants are able to make one shell bracelet, anklet or necklace.

Topics for Intensive Course:

Class 1:  Overview; Women's Achievements and Gender Roles; and Goal Setting.
Class 2: Effective Communication; Gender Violence; and Relationships.
Class 3:  Female Anatomy and Reproductive Health; Sexually Transmitted and Common Vaginal Infections; and Health and Wellness.
Class 4:  Cooking with Local Ingredients; and Local Crafts and Skirt Making.
Class 5:  Local Crafts and Skirt Making and; Review/Graduation/Party.

To build capacity and pass knowledge, three young women will be trained and paid as program instructors.  It is the expectation, that under the supervision of the Program Director, these instructors will facilitate and conduct all classes, as well as administer and manage the program. 

Conclusion

Overall this program has been successful for many reasons.  Most importantly we were able to sustain participation levels.  Ten girls remained active throughout the program, and eight successfully completed the program.  In addition, it was the first program of this type to be conducted on Weno.

Chuuk Women’s Council hosted a celebration for International Women’s Day and FSM Cultural Day on March 31st at the Truk Stop Hotel Patio.  The event theme: “ Recognizing the Achievements of Women Who Inspire Women and Communities”.

                                             

About one hundred-fifty women from the five regions of Chuuk, including our sisters from the KAPIT organization, and our sisters from the JICA Program, government officials, religious leaders, including CWC partners from CCS and the PPVDP.  The presence of Her Excellency Ambassador Doria Rosen and Ms. Abigail Kim made the event very special.

                                 

MC Ms. Sirene F. Killion opened the conference with the introduction.  Ms. Susan Danis gave the opening prayer.  Kiki Stinnett then gave the welcoming remarks, overview of the conference and recognized distinguished guests in attendance.  Kiki gave special recognition to Her Excellency US Ambassador to the FSM, Doria Rosen for being an outstanding advocate and supporter of CWC.  Kiki highlighted the importance of the special day by acknowledging that every woman is very special with unique talents and to use their talents to glorify God and to make a difference.  She asked everyone to “congratulate the person next to you for all the wonderful accomplishments and achievements each of you have done and continue to do for your family, community, church, State and Nation.”

This celebration was an opportunity to recognize the five most distinguished achievements of Chuukese Women for 2015 to 2016.  Each woman received a certificate in acknowledgement of their achievements and contributions to the community.

                    

1) Mrs. Alma Danis was born and raised in Chuuk, and has lived here most of her life.  She is the mother to 11 children, 42 grandchildren and 45 great grand children.  Moreover, she is considered the Mother of Chuuk as her late husband was the fist District Administrator of Chuuk.  She founded the Truk Women’s Club and organized education programs for Chuukese children.  In 1997 Mrs. Danis relocated to Oregon but did not leave her Chuukese roots behind, while in Oregon she served her community as she welcomed and assisted Chuukese people as they made transition to the mainland.  In 2016 Mrs. Danis returned to Chuuk and we are happy to have her back.

2) Ms. Ansina Kony received her nursing certificate from Walla Walla Community College in Washington, a bachelor’s degree in community health education from Eastern Washington University and a master’s degree in special education from University of Guam.  She has dedicated her professional life to improving the health and well-being of our community.  She has worked in the field of health and nutrition for the College of Micronesia, before moving on to the position of special education coordinator for Chuuk State Department of Education.  She has spent her personal time volunteering for civic and community organization including the Board of Education, Chuuk Women’s Council, Special Education Advisory Council and the Interagency Council.

3) Dr. Asinech Hellan Pangelian was born in Chuuk.  She attended local school and was the first graduate of Saramen Chuuk Academy High School. She made the move to the US when she finished high school in Chuuk and remained there ever since.  She received her associate’s degree in health and wellness from the College of Micronesia, a bachelor’s degree from Grand Canyon University in Arizona, and went on to receive her doctor of optometry degree from Nova Southeastern University in Arizona.  She may have left Chuuk but a good part of her remains in the islands.  She founded Eye Care Micronesia (ECM).  In 2015, Dr. Pangelinan and a team of eye doctors visited Chuuk and Pohnpei.  ECM worked with local health care providers including nurses, doctors, and COM health students and teachers from both Chuuk and Pohnpei in providing eye vision screenings and exams for school age children.  They were able to see about close to 800 kids.

4) Dr. Margarita Bernard Cholymay was born on Losap Island, Chuuk.  Dr. Margarita has had several years of school and training in education.  She received her associate’s degree in general education from Suomi College, Michigan, a bachelor’s degree in bilingual education from University of Hawaii, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Guam and her doctoral degree in teach education curriculum studies from the University of Hawaii.  Dr. Cholymay has committed her professional life to improving the educational system and training the next generation of educators. For almost 10 years, she was a primary school teacher at Iras Elementary from there she worked with the national government, Chuuk department of education and College of Micronesia developing teacher training and educational curriculum.  She is an adjunct professor at Chaminade University in Hawaii.  She had dedicated much of her personal time in support of improving the lives of her Chuukese community, and throughout the years she has been the Chair and member of the Chuuk State Board of Education member of the Child Abuse and Health Services Committee, as well as several other committees in Chuuk.

5) Christine Grace Robert was born and raised on Weno.  She graduated from St. Cecilia School and Xavier High School.  She is currently enrolled as a nursing student at the College of Micronesia.  Ms. Robert is the Micronesia Challenge Young Champion Intern at Chuuk Women’s Council.  In this capacity she teaches children in grades 3-5 about environment and climate change.  She is an active member of the student body association and Peniesene Youth Catholic Association, which is also member of the CWC.

Weno Mayor Pintas Kenneth welcomed the participants and also acknowledged the presence of Her Excellency US Ambassador Rosen.  He encouraged the Chuukese women historically have significant and important roles in the family and their community.  Representing the Governors’ Office was Mr. Tracy Meter who retreated what Mayor Kenneth said.

                                               

Her Excellency Ambassador, Doria Rosen was honored for her work and support of the FSM and Chuuk State.  She gave inspiring remarks touching on the importance of education, which is the key to success. She encouraged the participants that it takes a village to educate a child and for everyone to be active participants in their community.  Education opens the doors to opportunities and allows people to become anything they strive to be. You are a role model to the younger generation and inspire other people to make a difference.

                                                                                  Our keynote speaker for this special occasion was Ms. Margarita Cholymay, PhD and one of our most distinguished Achiever. She impressed upon the women the importance for culturally appropriate and the traditional respectful ways for our elders and leaders.  Her presentation showed a sailing canoe on a journey, which illustrates the importance of teamwork and helping one another to ensure a safe and successful journey. International Women’s Day celebrates and recognizes the significant achievements and the contributions of Chuukese Women to improve the lives of their families and communities.  She went on to emphasize and encourage the women to practice their traditional roles, and to follow Christian values.  She reiterated a quote by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

The First Lady of Chuuk State, Bersita Elimo gave the closing remarks for the day.  She thanked everyone for their roles in supporting the community.  She emphasized that education is the key to success, and it is our obligation to ensure that our children go to school.  She encourages parents to engage in their children’s schools and to support and guide their children in their studies.  She thanked all of the women, who presented at the celebration and praised them for their achievements and support of education in Chuuk.

The ceremony was followed by lunch of locally prepared cuisine and entertainment by Chuukese dance and singing groups, as well as the JICA and KAPIT women. 

             

All participants enjoyed the celebration and we thank everyone for their time and our sincere kinisou chapur to Truk Stop Hotel for the free venue and their support.

 

October was a very busy month at CWC, as we welcomed and hosted several CWC supporters at the SM Poll Memorial Center and Wellness Facility.

Representatives from Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School and from Sendai Rotary Club of Japan, Mr. Takehiko Katoh, Mr. Jun Ogata and Mr. Toru Igarashi visited and toured CWC.  Both organizations are strong supporters of our work at CWC and our educational efforts with local schools. To that end, Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School has generously donated conference tables and chairs, as well as, school desks and chairs.  These are much needed items for our workshops and training activities, and the classroom furniture will be put to good use by school children.    

Staff members, Soni Malaulau and Dr. Michael Roguski from the Pacific Prevention Domestic Violence Programme (PPDVP) based out of New Zealand, visited and toured our facility.  PPDVP works with local police and community organizations in the Western and South Pacific to end violence against women.  We have had a long-standing relationship with PPDVP, and they have supported our efforts to educate the Chuukese people about domestic violence.  Most recently, PPDVP underwrote our very successful Mother and Daughter/Father and Son family violence workshops that were held this past June.

 


Finally, we welcomed several members of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Church (LDS) including Mr. Bill Davis, Mr. Ty Johnson, Mr. Koji Kodama and Mr. Hans Sorensen.  Over the last year, the LDS Church has donated supplies and resources to CWC to help enhance and improve existing programs.  They have provided us with books for the resource library, baby clothes and blankets for the mother and child program, sewing machines for the micro-enterprise projects, glucose strips and body measurement scales for the healthy lifestyle program, musical instruments for the summer camps, seeds for home gardening efforts, and a camera to document all our activities.  We are truly grateful to them for their overwhelming support!

On December 6th, 2014 the Chuuk Women’s Council hosted a dedication ceremony to celebrate the completion of the second floor of the SMPoll Memorial Wellness Center. The second floor houses the volunteer residence, office space and the Youth and Family Learning Resource Center which includes a library, kids’ zone, computer lab and media room.  Our goal is to provide a safe and productive environment with learning materials to encourage the intellectual growth of children, youth, and families in Chuuk.

We would like to acknowledge with deep gratitude the grant from the Japan Government that has made this project possible. Kinisou Chapur!

Chuuk Womens Council PreConference at the Truk Stop HotelOn September 15th and 16th more than 150 women gathered from throughout the 5 regions of Chuuk, at the Truk Stop Hotel Conference Facility to participate in the CWC preconference to the FSM Women’s Conference that will take place in Pohnpei, in October 2014. The theme of this year’s conference was “Love of Family: Building Familial Relationship, Improving Health, Sustaining the Environment, and Strengthening Cultural Traditions for a Brighter Chuuk” (Translated: “TongenInepwineu” ApechekunenNefinenFamili: FeffeitanPechekunenAramas, SoposopoloonTumununLonomechunFonuwach Me Setich Me Apechekunen Ach KeweEereni, Ren SaramenLesor Me Pennon).

Kiki Stinnett presented the top five priority topics, which were identified in a community consultation program, which covered the 5 regions of Chuuk State and was funded by ADB through the Japan Special Fund. These topics include Social Services, Income, Education, Health and Infrastructure. The women were highly enthusiastic and engaged in learning about the key topics from the many knowledgeable presenters.

Our keynote speaker was Tanseny Reynold who offers a wealth of experience in women’s leadership. She is a CWC advisor, was the first Chuuk State Women’s Interest Officer (8 years), and is the principal of Nukuno Christian High School, Tonowas. The basis of her presentation came from the inspiring words of Proverbs 14:1.

Education presenters focused on the promoting of literacy and engaging parents and the community in education. Presenters included Evelyn Joseph, PREL, Gardenia A. Macayaon, Executive Director DOE, Bersita Elimo, First Lady, Chief of Administration and Personnel DOE, and Aileen O’toko, Chief of Planning and Development DOE.

Health presenters discussed cultural values and innovations in promoting primary care, healthy lifestyle and tobacco-free homes for healthier communities. Special attention was also focused on maternal health, and the legal age of consent from a health standpoint. Presenters included Dr. Sylvia Wally, Psychiatrist, Eleanor Setik, RN/NP, Acting Chief Public Health, Dr. Rita Mori, OB/GYN and Rev. Steiochy Manuel.

Presentations on socio-economic issues and their impact on the environment were done by Bradford Mori, EPA Focal Point for Climate Change, and Ketsen Haregaichig, Small Business Development. A special thanks as well to Jacinta Lippwe, Counselor for SAMH for translating, Mary Rose Nakayama and Sirene Killion for facilitating and Nely M. Ruben for her role as MC.

There was no lack of laughter and joy as women had opportunities to share dances and songs with the group as well as a fashion show demonstrating the success of the CWC & CRE sewing mission project. During working group sessions, the women came up with many ideas for implementing the information presented. Overall, the conference was an exciting time of encouragement, networking, and learning. More details on the outcome of our conference will be shared at the 2014 FSM Women’s Conference in Pohnpei.

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.