Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine convened the first Pacific Women Leaders Coalition Conference in Majuro Tuesday and Wednesday, using the opportunity to launch a new joint ROC/Taiwan-RMI fund to support business ventures by Marshallese women.
Before Tuesday’s opening the session, Heine said that the “Conference comes at an important time. We need to break more barriers in the workforce, in homes, in schools, in health to get women and girls to achieve their fullest potential.” In her keynote address, ROC Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen commended her Pacific sisters for their empowering work.
Special remarks came from Palau Minister of State Faustina Rehuher-Marugg who was emphatic that in Pacific cultures the role of women provides balance and that “we must take culture with us to the future.” She closed her remarks with a traditional chant that reflected the calming nature of women.
“A generation ago I am confident that a Pacific women’s leadership conference would not have had quite so many of us,” remarked Aumua Amata Radewagen, a US Congresswoman from American Samoa, who has seen more women leaders rising throughout the years.
Statements followed these on thematic areas including women’s economic empowerment, gender and human rights, women in leadership, and women and health. Dr. Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, the director general of the Forum Fisheries Agency, confirmed the establishment of a training program for an all-women fishing group as the right training can generate great change in women’s lives.
On gender and human rights, Melinia Nawadra, Social Inclusion advisor to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, spoke of “one Blue Pacific identity” as the core of collective and all-inclusive action. She reiterated that gender equality is at the heart of human rights. RMI National Nuclear Commission Chairperson Rhea Moss-Christian wrapped up the panel by saying, “Without question a healthy woman makes a healthy family and community.”
The panel discussions led up to the signing ceremony of the Kora Em An Kol Fund, worth $1 million, which will provide micro business start-up funding for Marshallese women. This fund took half a year to launch, said Tsai who gave 100 orchard flower seedlings to the women in attendance after she was given pandanus seedlings by three Marshallese Lerooj to demonstrate how something small can grow into something beautiful.
Today Marshallese women are realizing their dreams, said Heine. May the fund, Tsai added, be applied in fully developing the potential of women in the Marshall Islands.
Read more about this in the March 29, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.