“It’s for building the Vanuatu that we want”

Island Voices Episode 1
Island Voices Episode 2
Island Voices Episode 3

UN-OHRLLS has turned to audio to tell the stories of the lived experience of people living in small island developing States (SIDS) whose voices may otherwise go unheard.

The three-part series of Island Voices, recorded on the island nation of Vanuatu and released over the week leading into International Women’s Day 2021, delves into the challenges and aspirations of women pioneers fighting for gender equality across their society.

The stories are told by the protagonists themselves and are infused with sounds and music by local artists.

The first episode tells the story of how surfing unites a group of young women who are taking their long boards to the water, refusing to accept the idea that surfing is only for men.

Stephanie Mahuk, a lawyer and avid surfer recognizes the value of sports in elevating women across society. “If you get girls to participate in a sport that a majority of the time, in surfing, or in any other sport, is male dominated, that breaks the barriers for women’s rights and women’s recognition and setting up women to beat the expectation of men.” Vanuatu remains one of a handful of countries without any women in parliament. 

Episode 2 delves into the experience of two generations of women activists aiming to make history in Vanuatuan politics. Georgilla Worwor, a law student and community activist reflects on what drew her to politics, “My political ambition grew out of what I saw in my community. Every time I go back to the island there’s a lack of basic facilities and services. To get to hospital we would have to trek a long way, up a steep hill through an overgrown path. And I thought to myself what are we doing, what have we been doing?”  

Today, women are still in the minority across Vanuatu’s Police Department, but times are changing. When Sergeant Bianca Simeon joined the Vanuatu Police Maritime wing 11 years ago, she was their first woman recruit. Inspector Lili Joel is one of only two women superintendents, and Sera Bula Joseph is one of the rare women police engineers. In episode 3 of Island Voices, Sergeant Simeon and her colleagues describe the challenges they face, and the commitment needed to succeed in the Police Force.

Island Voices is hosted on the UN’s flagship podcast The Lid is On and is available across multiple platforms including Sound Cloud, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

The podcast producer, mixer and sound engineer is Ginny Stein of Blue Sky Vision Vanuatu. The series’ executive producers at UN-OHRLLS are Damien Sass and Conor O’Loughlin.

The Island Voices podcast is part of UN-OHRLLS’ Island Voices campaign funded by the Government of the Netherlands.