Raising “one voice” to carry their issues forward and impact change in the society is the passion for a newly formed group, calling itself the National Young Women for Change.
Initiated by the Ni-Vanuatu activist, also the Coordinator for Vanuatu Education Policy Advocacy Coalition (VEPAC), Anne Pakoa, the group aims to raise awareness on social issues affecting the welfare of young women, such as illiteracy, lack of employment, teenage pregnancy, lack of democratic rights, and not having a voice in decision making starting from the homes to as far as political participation within the provincial and national level.
Bearing the responsibility as an “agent of change”, this newly established group will also look at “how young women can participate actively and efficiently on economic development in Vanuatu”.
Explaining why she felt the urge to form this new group, Ms. Pakoa who has attended the Asia Pacific Feminists Forum, said, “We have come to a time where we need to get young women together to raise their issues and be able to put them together in a big basket and they themselves will identify solutions to the problems they are facing and make resolutions to what changes they wish to see in the future”.
She said mostly women are blamed when problems arise, and gave few examples which include abortions, rape cases, marriage problems, and even cases where women sell themselves in exchange of money.
Speaking during the first session of the group’s gathering, the woman activist reminded the women who were present to know that they are “beautiful and strong” no matter what other people might say or think about them.
She emphasised on the aspect of self-respect. “Lacking respect within you may create corruptive thoughts and acts.
“Women tend to react negatively whenever they are faced with life’s problems, and then they say that they are comfortable with whatever mode of solution which they tapped into”.
Ms. Pakoa gave an example happening in Vila today where young women would do anything, believing its part of their comfort, and “they don’t even care when they are called kava-faced”.
“You need to maintain your dignity”, were her words of encouragement which echoed within the room.
Ms. Pakoa is making a call to women who can also act as mentors for the young women on a voluntary basis. “This mentorship is not a full time responsibility. You will be asked to speak and coach from time to time to ensure that this group starts off well and once stable, we can stand back and watch them grow”.
Any young women in Vanuatu between the age group from 16-35 years old are encouraged to join the group, share experience and challenges they are facing and contribute to finding ways to address them and be an agent of change in the society they represent.
The meeting ended with the election of the eight executive members to the new group. The Chairlady of the Vanuatu Young WOmen for Change is Miltus Maliu, a female Police officer.