The laying aside of a traditional taboo in Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia opened up the floodgates for discussions at a conference on Empowering Gender Collaboration for Sustainable Living and the Elimination of Poverty hosted by the Chuuk Women’s Council.
“Taboo on certain issues like sex are very hard to change but when it did, the floodgates opened and talks flowed openly,” said Pacific Island AIDS Foundation AIDS Ambassador and Support Group and Legal Programme Support Officer Rebecca Kubunavanua.
Ms Kubunavanua was sharing about her trip last month to the week-long conference in Chuuk where she spoke on issues related to HIV to the 400 plus audience made up of delegates from FSM, Saipan and the Republic of Marshall Islands.
She said the conference which was supposed to have ended on a Thursday continued to the next day forcing visitors to take part in the morning session before immediately boarding their flights to their various destinations.
The discussions which usually bordered but never confronting practical sex issues that were affecting everyday life was challenged by FSM President Emmanuel Mori.
President Mori during his opening address called on the women that “it was time to talk about things that we don’t talk about.”
But he said talks would only be meaningfu l and constructive if women educated themselves to address current issues that their people were facing.
The conference also addressed the drafting and finalizing of their HIV and AIDS Decree as a state of Chuuk following in the footsteps of Ponaphei who is the only state of the four-state independent nation to have passed a Bill on HIV in congress. FSM is made up of the states of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae.
PIAF has been actively involved in drafting and constructing HIV Bills for different Pacific Island states and is currently working with FSM with their Bill.
Ms Kubunavanua also was able to initiate talks on the setting up of Support Groups for people living with HIV in Chuuk and is looking at the opening up of more support groups in the other three states once Chuuk was set up.
Ms Kubunavanua said even though the FSM has political ties with the United States, women there were bound up with cultural and traditional ties that compounded stigma and discrimination issues with women living with HIV.
Caption ::::: Ms Kubunavanua, third from right, addresses the conference in Chuuk