Girls' Education in Micronesia

Located in the northern region of Oceania, the Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of the island country, Nauru, and four prominent island states: the Marshall Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Mariana Islands. Modern education in the islands has grown leaps and bounds from its initial introduction via Japan during World War I, especially once the region became Americanized at the conclusion of World War II. With this American aid, the development of girls’ education in Micronesia began to grow swiftly and has continued ever since.

Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)

According to a status report released by the United Nations Development Programme in 2010, the gap between male and female enrollment in Micronesian schools began to close after signing the Millennium Declaration. In 2009, the ratio of girls to boys in primary education was 0.96, compared to the ratio of 0.92 in 1994. In the same year, the ratio of girls to boys in secondary education was 1.02, and the ratio of girls to boys enrolled in the College of Micronesia was 1.14.

Despite this improvement, girls still scored lower than their male peers, though not by much. The same study shows that in the 2008-2009 school year, while boys garnered an average 65 percent test score, girls scored an average of 61 percent, pegging the overall test score at 62 percent.

Chuuk Women’s Council

Chuuk, one of the four Federated States of Micronesia, had become home to many different non-governmental organizations all throughout the 1980s. In 1984, these organizations began to congregate; by 1993, they had totally coalesced to create bigger waves and to form what is known as the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC).

Currently, the council is spearheaded by Christina “Kiki” Sinnett. In an Office of Minority Health blog post, Sinnett wrote, “The biggest challenge for women in Chuuk is access to education. Unfortunately, in many Chuukese households, girls are overlooked by parents when it comes to education decisions, meaning that they may do whatever it takes to educate their sons, often at the expense of their daughters’ education.”

She further elucidates that many programs the CWC offers are engineered for disenfranchised women who never got the chance to complete their schooling.

Although Chuuk has the highest student populous of all the Micronesian states, the mean amount of time a Micronesian adult spends in school 9.7 years; the United States’ mean amount time spent in school, however, is 12.9 years. This contrast means that while education globally falls short, girls’ education in Micronesia is utterly abysmal.

Promoting Female Wellness

The CWC doesn’t restrict itself to traditional educational lessons. The Shinobu M. Poll Memorial Center triples as a rendezvous for the council’s annual conferences, an educational domain and a wellness center for women. Within the premises, cancer screenings are performed, a dialogue regarding reproduction/reproductive safety is alive, and the doors to HIV tests are open.

In their Healthy Lifestyles Program, the CWC combats tuberculosis as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis promotes abstinence — Chuuk has the highest teen pregnancy rate of all the federated states. The organization also provides reading material for those in need of health-related education.

Another major staple of the CWC is advocacy work, especially regarding violence surrounding women. The establishment lobbied heavily for the age of consent to be legally altered from 13 years old to 18 years old within the nation’s regions.

With much work still left to do and many left uneducated on the harsh realities women face daily in the Federal States of Micronesia, the CWC also stands for “community policing” in their areas. Community policing is, essentially, the spreading of information and reporting of sexual misconduct to expel ignorance and miseducation from the community.

Girls’ Education In Micronesia

Sinnett, who succeeded her mother (the memorial center’s namesake) as CWC president, grew up an active fly on the wall of the nursing lifestyle. “I got to watch her go to work every day,” Sinnet told the Rural Health Information Hub, speaking of her late mother, “care for others, and be a valuable member of our local community.”

This conduct acted as a catalyst for her to become involved herself, and push to ameliorate girls’ education in Micronesia.

– Jordan De La Fuente
Photo: Flickr