A moment with Myjolynne Kim

World Bank

For International Women’s Day 2019, get to know some of the women driving change and increasing equality across the Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea. Myjolynne Kim is a single mother, a PhD candidate and Pacific scholar who hails from Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia and is working on history of Chuuk through women’s voices and stories.

In 2015 I started a PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra, for which I was grateful to be awarded a scholarship through the Australia Awards program through the Australian government. My PhD is on Chuukese local history, but in this research I’m interested in women’s history, their voices and their stories.

I don’t consider myself a ‘gender’ person, but in attempts to decolonize Micronesian history, I realized that much of our written history is based on an old-fashioned, colonial, male-dominant lens that concentrated on men’s stories and perspectives.

Interestingly, when we look at local history, the gender perspective is flipped, and local histories are centered women’s stories. Local histories are female related and clan histories all go back to women as we’re matrilineal society.

How do you get people to discuss their oral histories?

Ethnographic interviews [where researchers undertake in-depth, one-on-one interviews directly with individuals] were not as productive as I initially thought. First the style, approach and methods involved in an ethnographic interview are still foreign, so it is not that easy.

I ended up setting aside the interview sheet and really engaged in a mentor-mentee setting. It’s almost like a talanoa process, but in Chuukese tradition it’s the concept of the noos or the learning mat, where we just tell stories and learn from each other.

What set you on this path?

In my Masters Degree I was focused on Micronesian history in the area of traditional warfare and violence, and the violent reputation Chuukese people obtained over centuries. But as I was studying that, I saw all these local histories of women with a totally different view to what was dominant. So I delved deeper into local history, and then I was exposed to these rich women’s history and the important role they played in their societies then.

As a woman living in the islands, I had worked on education reform, youth policy, gender and even cultural policy, but there were so many barriers due to gender and culture. But as a local woman I knew that a lot of us were using culture in a political way which could be disempowering for women. For example, we feed on a violent history of Chuuk because colonial histories tell us we are, and this violent culture endorses violence among young men. For many, domestic violence then became a problem. Learning more about local history and deep cultural values made me see some hope. I see local history as empowering women, men and therefore our Chuukese communities. This is what led me to gender focused history.

I’ve also worked in areas and been in meetings where men don’t give you the space simply because you are a woman, but in my family I was given the space to speak as a woman and I was told that women have a significant voice. To have policies implemented [that lead to greater equality] you need cultural validation – so for us to have women leaders you have to have a local history that not only proves but supports that women are entitled to leadership roles – that is important to increase women’s participation in leadership roles.

People say women are not in leadership positions because people say it is culturally disrespectful, but my narrative history is showing that is not the case. And that’s why it is so important to be critical of what has been written about us and who’s defining and writing our stories.

What advice do you have for young women who want to take a similar path?

I would just say be open to opportunity; especially educational opportunities, as they don’t come up often. It is important to truly understand who you are, but also be open to what you learn outside your island cultures that can really foster inclusion and equity in your communities. Because that is a key to a healthy community. Women can influence positive change, it’s important to be responsibly influential.

What are the biggest issues in the Federated States of Micronesia right now, and how can they be addressed?

Inclusion, accessibility and equity. Problems here are due to political reasons and a lack of quality education; both cultural and formal education.


What drives you to work towards your goals?

My son, my nephews and nieces and the generation that is coming: I want my son to grow up in a healthy community, to experience equity and inclusion and to have a safe environment. I’m driven by this.

Sometimes I want to give up. But if did; who would do it? I can’t rely on others, I need to do it so that when I die, my son and others will have a good legacy and be able to live in a country where they feel they belong.

If you could use one word to describe women in FSM, what would it be?

Salient. Women hold the pillars in their homes, but they also hold their family and extended community together. Women are able to say, “my kids will have food on the table, my son or daughter will go to a good school.” These are the little things that really influence the greater society and government.

Also, in our culture we really listen to our parents. Sons listen to mothers. Moms have a strong influence on changing and shifting narratives, and with more educational opportunities they will be able to lead their communities and families into a more inclusive space.

**The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.

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Health Corner 3 - Knowing more about Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

The four main NCDs are: Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Chronic Lung Diseases. The NCD rates are higher and rising among lower income countries and populations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Chronic Respiratory Diseases (CRD) as chronic diseases of the airways and other structures of the lung. The most common are: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension.
These diseases have a high morbidity rate, as well as disability and premature mortality, specifically asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Risk factors include: tobacco smoke (either active smoking or secondhand smoke), air pollution, occupational chemicals and dusts, and frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood.
CRDs are not curable; however many cases of COPD are preventable by avoiding or stopping smoking.Treatment can relieve symptoms, improve quality of life and reduce the risk of death.
According to the latest WHO estimates (2004):
64 million people have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
More than 3 million people die each year from COPDs, an estimated 6% of all deaths worldwide.
More than 90% of COPD deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries.
235 million people suffer from asthma, a common disease among children.

From the perspective of Integrative Medicine, if we consider the element air in this topic, we could say that air marks the start and end of our life, since the first breathing allows us to live and the last one takes us to death. We all share the air with humans and other species.
The air is related to breathing. Breathing is the beat of the Universe. We inhale and exhale as the Universe expands and contracts. Breathing connects us with the universe.
If you want to try an exercise to breathe like a person with COPD does, take a straw, close your lips around it, pinch your nose and breath only through the straw in your mouth… inhale… and exhale... inhale… and exhale… You have the privilege to take the straw away and breath in and out to all your healthy lung capacity; 64 million of people in the world cannot.
How can I prevent, or help my family prevent, Chronic Respiratory Disease? Let’s review the risks factors:
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer*. If you are a current smoker, find the support needed to stop smoking. According to the CDC, the only way to fully protect nonsmokers is to eliminate smoking in all homes, worksites, and public places. We are responsible to reinforce the law and make those spaces clean.
Air pollution: indoor air pollution, resulting from solid fuel used for cooking and heating and outdoor air pollution. Maintain ventilated spaces, avoid smoke from cooking or wearing a mask if you can’t avoid them. Plant trees that will help the environment.
Occupational chemicals and dust: people working in these conditions should wear special protection.
Avoid Frequent respiratory infections during childhood: Having a good immune system as a result of a healthy lifestyle will help prevent and fight respiratory diseases at any age, especially during early years.

Mabel Loján, MD


Integrative Medicine
*: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2017 Oct 18]).

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Health Corner 2 - What can we do about non-communicable diseases (NCDs)?

Have you heard about NCD? NCD stands for Non-Communicable Diseases, which means it is not caused by something infectious and is not-infectious.
In my perspective, NCDs are not only non-transmissible but are also preventable.
NCD is a group of diseases that because of their characteristics, are chronic with a slow progression and most of them can cause “sudden” deaths or affect the quality of life of the sick person.
Some of the diseases under the NCD umbrella are: Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Chronic Lung Disease.
The concern surrounding NCDs is that these diseases are the leading causes of death and disease burden worldwide. It is estimated that more than 30 million of annual deaths are due to NCDs.
Micronesia and the Pacific Region are not exceptions. The data has placed the Region in “an NCD Crisis”. Forum leaders have recognized the situation as a ‘human, social and economic crisis requiring an urgent and comprehensive response’.
WHO surveys show that three out of every four deaths in the region are NCD related and the Pacific has some of the highest rates of these diseases and their causes in the world.
World Health Organization (WHO) performed a survey in Pohnpei. The 2008 report showed some information on the risk factors related to NCDs.
According to the WHO, a risk factor is any attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or injury. Some risks factors can be modifiable, like habits or exposures. Other risk factors like age or gender cannot be modified.
Risks factors for NCDs are all those habits that increase the chances to develop Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular (Heart) and Lung Disease. Some of them are: high blood pressure, tobacco and alcohol consumption, betel nut chewing, low or lack of physical activity, being overweight or obese, non healthy eating (the survey used number of servings of vegetables and fruits).
Some of the important results of the 2008 WHO survey in Pohnpei are:
25% of the population smoked tobacco daily,
26.9% of population chewed betel nuts daily,
35.1% of men drank an average of 5 or more standard drinks per day in the past week,
68.9% of the population consumed sake (kava),
81.8% of the population consumed less than five combined servings of fruit and vegetables per day,
64.3% of the population had a low level of physical activity,
73.1% of the population was overweight, 42.6% were obese,
32.1% of the population was diabetic.

What do these numbers mean? In terms of lifestyle, we can improve in order to prevent deaths in our families.
If we go back to the concept of the lost balance that causes the illness and we apply it to NCDs, keeping in mind that there are known risks factors for this group of diseases, the crisis can be managed by stopping the risk factors We start new protection factors or healthy habits.
One in every three people in Pohnpei is Diabetic. Diabetes is one of the NCDs that is affecting the quality of life of our families and friends.
Every day we can choose to have healthy habits. Every meal can be feeding NCDs or fighting them. We all can start changing these figures and make Micronesia not only a paradise to live in but also a healthy country.
Mabel Loján, MD
Integrative Medicine

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