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Men and Women of the Marshall Islands. Observations by Marie Maddison. Introduction.

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men and women of the marshall islands

Men and Women of the Marshall Islands

Observations

by

Marie Maddison

Gender Roles

introduction
Introduction
  • The social relations between women and men in the Republic of the Marshall Islands have been the subject of continual change. This paper examines how the language and the culture of the Marshall Islanders expresses a harmony with nature and that nature balances the role between the feminine and the masculine.
  • While the traditional language and culture provided a balance between the gender this has been disrupted by many factors. Early traders and whalers, Christianity, government and more recently globalization began to disrupt the gender roles by bringing sources of power other than land which traditionally passed down through the women.
  • Gender relations between men and women in RMI have long departed from the traditional language and culture because of these disruptions. However, we could take the message of balance and harmony in the language and culture to guide us in achieving equality between men and women.

Gender Roles

slide3

Factors of Marshallese Society Impacting Gender Visions

  • Mother Nature or “Jined ilo Kobo” (Mother glues together and keeps the Society secured) and
  • the Seal of the Marshall Islands Government (which indicates importance of “Jined” and the different roles of mothers and sons), and
  • Balance in Nature in The RMI Motto, the Culture
  • Balancing the Impact of Globalization in
  • the RMI Constitution and in
  • The Meto/Vision 2018

Gender Roles

definitions
Definitions

“Our Mother” – Jined, from “Jin” which is the name of the slab upon which pandanus leaves are pounded for softening before woven into soft mat used as skirt (“ed”) or sleeping mat.

“Our Father” – Jemed, from “Jem” which means to sharpen; “Jemen-ei” (Constitution) means his/her father designed it.

“Man” – Emaan, and “maan” also means first.

“Culture”- Maanit comes from “maan” and “nit”(knowledge), which means the first knowledge.

“Relationship with All Men” – Maanid comes from “our first” which means “our sons” and thus men should be treated and respected as such.

“Relationship with All Women – Jined means that all women are to be treated and respected as “our mothers.”

Gender Roles

definitions cont
Definitions (cont.)
  • Culture & Democracy: A) Irooj, traditional chief, comes from “er-woj” or those people – meaning that without the people, there is no leader; B) Kajur, the followers, comes from “ka-joor” or “pillaring” – meaning that the people are the pillars that uphold the power of the leader
  • Culture & the Seal of the Government: A) Meto, defines two items – the sea and the navigational chart, that symbolize visioning and leading; B) Wa & Ook, the canoe & the net – each symbolizes unity of purpose and is a vehicle to gain strength and to reap benefits to the people – the wa symbolizes men while the net symbolizes the women. Women invented the sail, and the sailing canoe symbolizes the joint effort and the importance of the participation of both gender; C) Deka in Nin, pounding rock or pandanus leaves pounder made from giant tridacna shell, symbolizes motherhood as caretaker and care giver.

Gender Roles

definitions cont traditional roles of women
Definitions (cont.) traditional roles of women
  • Kijmined: Us and our mother. Kijmined is the beginning of a saying that defines the value of women in the Marshallese culture, it is followed by: ook en, deka in nin en im wa en waan (her net, her pounding rock, and her canoe)
  • Jined ilo Kobo: Nurturing mother. Kobo literally means to mold, to keep, to gather together, to glue together
  • Kora Menunaak: Women the caregiver. Menunaak comes from the word aak the frigate bird. The frigate birds flies over the seas to bring fish to her young ones.
  • Ieb Jaltok: Basket facing our way. A woman relocated anywhere will always bring blessings to the clan.
  • Lejmaanjuri: Step on major aggression. Woman the peacemaker.
  • Kora im Ankil: Woman and her talents. Resourceful.
  • Limaro Bikbikir Kolo eo: Women shaking the spirit – movers and shakers for their sons, their clans and communities.

Gender Roles

definitions cont traditional roles of men
Definitions (cont.) traditional roles of men
  • Ekkwikwi Jin-en Emaan is a Marshallese saying that means a son should come to the rescue of his mother – man, the protector of the clan.
  • Mommaan Keimokraan means the man wakes the day or the man wakes in early morning hours to go fish and find food for the family – man, the scavenger of the clan.
  • Mommaan Maronron is usually followed by the saying Kora Mojno – meaning that since the man is physically the stronger of the two, the woman is physically the weaker, the man is to take the lead and explore, respond, and carry heavy burdens for the clan.

Gender Roles

the seal of the marshall islands government balance in nature the role of women
The Seal of the Marshall Islands Government – Balance in Nature, the Role of Women
    • The Seal – the frigate bird, the net, the sailing canoe, the pounding rock, the meto, the island, and the sea
  • Conserving - Mother Nature, Matrilineal - Kijmined
  • Nurturing – the pounding rock, island -Jined ilo Kobo
  • Securing - The frigate bird, the net, the island – Kora Menunaak, Kora Ieb Jaltok, Lejmaanjuri
  • Exploring - The sailing canoe, the frigate bird, the net – Kora im An Kil, Limaro Bikbikir Kolo eo
  • Peacekeeping – the net - Lejmaanjuri

Gender Roles

the role of men sharpening the vision
The Role of Men…Sharpening the Vision
  • The Seal symbolizing men’s role as the frigate bird, the net, the sailing canoe, the pounding rock, the meto, the island, and the sea
  • Exploring – the meto, the bird, the island, the canoe – Irooj im Jela, Niti-Jela
  • Leading – the meto, the sea, the land
  • Securing – the meto, the pounding rock (respecting the mother), the net – “Ekakwikwi Jin-en Emmaan”
  • Fishing and Planting for the Family - the sea the land – “Mo-maan Kaimokraan”, “Mo-maan Maronron”

Gender Roles

the rmi motto the culture
The RMI Motto & the Culture
  • The RMI Motto is Jepelpel in Ke Ejukaan, an old Marshallese saying and belief. Jepel means to part from and kaan means the flora of the land, the country. It means that while the islands are apart, each will remain standing firm. It refers to the people, that although leaders will depart, others will stand in their place. It means that while people are apart they still grow as one. It is the cultural and the country’s vision of sustainable development.

Gender Roles

sons the meto what about the daughters
Sons & the Meto - What about the Daughters?

The many factors that affected our traditions:

  • The Culture & Trade (Globalization)
  • Christianity & Education
  • The Constitution – Jemen-ei, the Supreme Law of the Land
  • The Land – working & claiming the land
  • The Sea – sailing & fishing the seas
  • The Nitijela, the Meto & Leadership
  • Sons & Daughters in Transition

Gender Roles

culture globalization
Culture & Globalization
  • Exchange of Goods
  • Commodities for Exchange
    • Wives were sometimes used
    • Land was sometimes used
    • Sons of Mixed Blood resulted
  • Traders bear new breed with outside power base plus land (through purchase of land, e.g.)
  • Special recognition of common man and education of wives as well
  • Businessman – new type of leaders – national, community, home

Gender Roles

christianity education
Christianity & Education
  • Converting the Irooj and the Culture
  • Selecting Common Man for Pastor
  • Educating the Pastor
  • Wife receives some education
  • Pastor & Wife receive special recognition
  • Pastor & Wife become more educatedPastors - New type of Leaders – home, community, national

Gender Roles

government democracy equal opportunities in all roles
Government & Democracy & Equal Opportunities in All Roles
  • Bill of Rights – equal opportunities and protection of citizens, both gender
  • Education Act – compulsory basic education for citizen, both gender
  • CRC Ratification – comprehensive protection and opportunities for children, both gender
  • National Women’s Policy – comprehensive protection and opportunities for women
  • Vision 2018 – implementation of Women’s Policy

Gender Roles

impact on women men
Impact on Women & Men
  • Education of Women – on the rise
  • Employment of Women – on the rise, however unemployment rate on the rise
  • Transition re changes to customary roles: family responsibilities, community responsibilities – changing gender roles
  • Land custodial rights changing bringing about lack of security for women
  • Social impact on women and children re abuse and neglect

Gender Roles

transition re changes to customary roles
Transition re changes to customary roles
  • family responsibilities – parenting in a nuclear family with household headed by father (not maternal uncle, nor maternal grandmother)
  • community responsibilities – church (men leaders mainly), school, culture, government (men leaders mainly in parliament & judiciary, in local governments & health clinics)
  • changing gender roles – both seek employment, both seek education, both can run for office, either can hold and head household

Gender Roles

meto vision 2018 where do we go from here
Meto & Vision 2018 - Where do we go from here?

We now have a new navigational chart - Vision 2018, and it has the following elements in its mandate that need our review and understanding with respect to their impact on the balance and harmony between the feminine and the masculine roles:

  • A country in an interdependent world
  • Enhanced socio-economic self-reliance
  • An Educated People
  • A Healthy People
  • A Productive People
  • Law-abiding People
  • God-loving People
  • Respecting Individual freedom and fundamental human rights
  • Respecting culture and traditions
  • Environmental Sustainability

Gender Roles