Chuuk Women’s Council Officially Launches FSM’s First Violence Against Women Counseling Centre

Left to right: Wilma Eileen, Pacific Women Capacity Development Adviser: Gender-Based Violence; The Honorable Lady Bersita Elimo, Chuuk State First Lady; Mrs. Hiromy Mailo, Chuuk State Second Lady; and Christina “Kiki” Stinnett, President, Chuuk Women’s Council.
The Hon. Lt. Governor Mark Mailo. Photo credit: Chuuk Women’s Council.

Monday 9 March 2020 (Chuuk State, FSM): Chuuk State First Lady, The Honorable Lady Bersita Elimo officially launched the Chuuk Women’s Council “Tongen Inepwinew Counseling Centre,” which translated means “Love of the Family Counseling Centre”.

The Tongen Inepwinew Counseling Centre is the first crisis support centre for survivors of violence against women in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The Centre provides free, confidential and non-judgmental counseling through trained “safe counselors” who provide counseling and support to survivors of domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and child sexual abuse. To develop its crisis counseling project, Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC) has received funding and extensive on-going technical support from the Australian Government through Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women).

In his opening remarks, the Lieutenant Governor, Mr Mark Mailo said it is unfortunate that FSM has high rates of violence against women where it is estimated that one in every three women in FSM have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.

‘Chuuk State has the highest rate of violence against women compared to the other FSM States. This plague of violence in families is against our culture and our human rights values.’

The Chuuk Women’s Council project has taken ten years to complete and includes the renovation of the Centre’s building to meet the required standards for a counseling service facility along with ongoing professional development and training of its counselors ready for full service.

Christina “Kiki” Stinnett, President, Chuuk Women’s Council. Photo credit: Chuuk Women’s Council.

Christina Stinnett (better known as “Kiki”) is President of the Chuuk Women’s Council, which is an umbrella organization of more than 60 women’s organisations in Chuuk State and more than 1000 women members.

‘I believe that all women should live a life free from all forms of violence and discrimination. But it is essential that all women in Chuuk are made aware that there is a service available for survivors of violence against women. We had our Market Day on February 28, 2020 and a woman said and I quote, “Why now! You should have provided this service long time ago. This is good that we have this in Chuuk now as we need this!” I agree with this woman, if we don’t do it now, then when and who will do it! The Tongen Inepwinew Counseling Centre envisions a Chuuk State that is free from all forms of violence and discrimination against women. All its activities are survivor or women centred which means we do not blame the women for the domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment that she has experienced or is experiencing. It is never the woman’s fault. The perpetrator is responsible for his violent behaviour! The more we give excuses for his violent behaviour, the more we are allowing the perpetrator to continue with his criminal act.’

‘With a 10-year commitment, Pacific Women enables support to diverse women’s and civil society organisations and other partners to strengthen their own capacities to assist communities and empower women. Providing technical, convening and knowledge sharing support to the portfolio of initiatives and partners is Pacific Women’s Support Unit, working alongside partners to improve the political, economic and social opportunities of Pacific women and to end violence against women and girls. It is this support that is proving invaluable to partners such as the Chuuk Women’s Council. To have a dream to open a counseling service is one thing, but to be able to access international and local expertise to make that happen, in addition to funding resources, is what makes the Australian Government’s Pacific Women program support so unique.” – Ms. Dionisia Bernard Asher, Senior Program Manager, Australian Embassy, FSM. ‘I would like to acknowledge the kindness of the Japan Government through their Japan Embassy in Pohnpei for their generosity in funding this beautiful Shinobu M. Poll Memorial center. Our sincere “Kinisou Chapur”, and thank you, to the Australian Government and its Pacific Women team who have tirelessly supported us to make this dream a reality in funding the Federated States of Micronesia’s first Counseling Centre for survivors of violence against women here in Chuuk State.’

Dionisia Bernard Asher, Senior Program Manager, Australian Embassy – FSM. Photo credit: Chuuk Women’s Council.