Here is a picture off the shores of one of the beautiful islands that make up Tuvalu-which can be transliterated as “8 Standing together”. It is made up of 9 islands in the South Pacific. It’s one of my “dream places to visit”. I’ll tell you why in just a minute…
Looking at such a beautiful place, one would think that the people, especially the women, don’t have the same issues as those of us in more metropolitan areas. You would be wrong. Women have some of the same issues in Tuvalu as they do elsewhere.
Tuvaluans are ethnically Polynesean and the cultural traditions and societal norms are about the same as those throughout the islands in the South Pacific. Women are expected to take care of the children and the home. Recently their duties have been enlarged to include the needs of their communities.
While that may seem like a similar role description to some of you reading this; there is a difference. Women have little to no voice in the decision making process of the nation. While they are active in their communities, and men respect their voices on a community level-it has ended there.
Tuvaluan women are considered the most educated group among the islands states. Their educations are what make them strong voices in the home and in the community. But women have yet to break into the higher level of government.
“Culture is a barrier that we are working to overcome. One of the challenges is to keep our traditional culture, but still improve gender balance.” says Pulafangu Toafa, coordinator of the Tuvaluan National Council for Women.
That is one aspect of the Butterfly Bridge that I would like to make clear; we want to maintain culture, but still have gender balance. It can be done! And I think that the Tuvaluan women are making strides to make that happen. The mental challenges that we all face need to be addressed. Fear is a slave master. If you give it power, it will rule you! Time to tell fear, “you are no longer my master!” and speak up for ourselves and others through awareness.
Women in Tuvalu also face domestic violence issues. This is a worldwide issue, butterflies. That is why #EndingViolenceAgainstWomen is one of our primary focuses. Violence or violation is a form of control. And women are being violated and abused at an alarming rate. This can’t continue to happen. We have to get our power back! We have to speak up and speak out and break the mental yokes that keep us silent. We have to know that our voices have power, and that does not come at the cost of our womanhood. Our voices enlarge us, not decrease us.
In Tuvalu, domestic violence, rape and/or assault is very rarely reported. Women are afraid of further attack and abandonment if they report crimes, especially rape. Only 2 individuals have ever been prosecuted for such crimes. Together, through awareness and sisterhood, we can help the women of Tuvalu speak out against violence by
1.) Acknowledging that it exists.
2.) Respecting Tuvaluan culture. Understanding ones culture allows us to connect with one another in a respectful manner. We don’t want to judge the roles of women in different cultures or assume that their “freedom” is equal to “our way” of life and thinking.
3.) Connect with organizations and/or begin a outreach to the women of Tuvalu. We can do this! Even though the island of Tuvalu is very limited technologically wise, (they only have 1 newsletter, no internet, no TV-yet) we can reach them if we put our pretty little wings together! You can contact the Ministry of Tuvalu here: Government of Tuvalu .
The Tuvaluan National Council for Women is making strides to bring awareness and support to women. At the age of 18, all women in Tuvalu become members of the TNCW, which not only supports and defends them, but empowers them to become further educated, business owners and voices in government decision making.
When we stand up to End the Violence Against Women, we are standing up for women everywhere. Remember the women of Tuvalu every time you stand up for your rights. Remember them when you speak up, and remember them when you fight for change. Your voice is their voice; it is all of our voices.
The Butterfly Bridge is working on a sweet little project to connect all of the women of the world together in one place-exercising our power as one. Look for it in the coming weeks!
Violence is a similar thread we have with the butterflies of Tuvalu….but we do have some differences. In my next post, I will tell you about an issue facing Tuvaluan women that may seem extremely foreign, even unreal to most of you. Which is the reason I want to visit real soon.
Until my next post,