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Micronesian Women and the Important Roles they Play

Micronesia societies were matrilineal and clan membership and land were passed down through women.

Men were generally associated with the sea and the cultivation of trees while women usually were in charge with the cultivation of the land and the production of staple food crops.

In addition, women also manufactured traditional valuables such as loom-woven lavalavas, pandanus mats, medicine and ornaments. These valuables were used to purchase canoes and were given as gifts at weddings, funerals and other significant community events.

In other Micronesia islands, many women did inshore fishing and gathered sea food. In Pulap island women were known to be the first navigators in Micronesia, according to the late great Satawalese navigator Mau Piailug.

He once recounted the legend of the kuling bird or sandpiper which was, as the story goes, a ghost and not just a bird.

The kuling flew from the Marshall Islands to Pohnpei, Chuuk and Pulap and ate everyone along the way except the people of Pulap.

There, the kuling demanded that it be given enough food so it would not eat the people of Pulap. As instructed by the chief, his daughter gave the kuling taro and a coconut.

Satisfied, the kuling decided to teach the chief’s daughter how to be a navigator.

Before the kuling left Pulap, its people gave the bird as many baskets of taro and coconuts it could carry.

The kuling then took off but because of its heavy load it dropped into the ocean and changed into an octopus.

So now every island navigator protects himself from this octopus by reciting incantations to the spirits of the ocean

In Micronesia, the women’s traditional roles included reproduction (bearing children), production (contributing to the economic life of the family), and interaction with the community.

Women were the primary teachers of the young. In addition, they were the protectors of the land and had a great say in determining who would or would not be given land in the kin group.

Women often initiated planning for the community and were the peace-makers. They did much more than bearing babies and keeping the house clean. Their roles were clearly defined and these permitted them to make vital contributions to their family and community.

Nowadays, more island women have jobs and one of the questions they have to answer every work day is this, “Who will take care of my kids while I’m away?”

Children are virtually competing for basic childcare.

By: Christy Sakaziro 

Ms Christina Sakaziro is the Director of the Palau & Micronesia Humanities Project.

 Source: Pacific Island News Association

 

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