Senator Magdalena Walter: I was trained to care for people

Senator Walters FSM_LR
Senator Magdalena Walter has been a member of the FSM Legislature for the last 12 years. Photo: Shazia Usman/Pacific Women Support Unit.

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“Before joining politics, I was a nurse. I used to think that politics was very different from nursing but I soon realised that my health background helped me be a better politician because I was trained to care for people. I think that’s the problem with some of us politicians who don’t really think of those people struggling to survive.”

~ Senator Magdalena Walter

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At the third Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships forumPacific Women had the opportunity to meet with Pacific women parliamentarians gathered for the three-day forum to discuss ways to address gender equality.

Senator Magdalena Walter shares her experience of working as member of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Legislature for the last 12 years.

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am from the State of Pohnpei which is the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia. I have been part of the Parliament, which we call Legislature, for three terms.

Before joining politics, I was a nurse. I used to think that politics was very different from nursing but I soon realized that my health background helped me be a better politician because I was trained to care for people. I think that’s the problem with some of us politicians who don’t really think of those people struggling to survive. Before politicians used to say that there is no poverty in the islands but they can’t say that now because it is so apparent. And I know it’s only going to get worse if we don’t do anything about it.

Tell us a little bit about FSM…

The population of FSM is around 107,000 but migration is very high now. Most of our citizens are going to Guam, Hawaii and the United States because of the Compact Agreement with United States which allows people to travel for work. To me this migration is sad because our young educated people are leaving. Some of them come back but not all. Back home we have foreign people working for us. The hospital has a lot of doctors and nurses from the Philippines. The construction companies are mostly foreign-owned. This is the kind of work we should train our young people to do but it’s not happening.

We have the potential. We can do more with our agricultural production but sadly people are not engaging in that. We tend to think more of today than tomorrow.

Tell us about your experience being part of the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnership forum…

These forums are a chance for us to come together, share, listen and learn. I find the discussions here enriching and it saddens me that we don’t have many women in the law making body back home. Our societies are male dominated and even we as females think it’s the men’s role to be in public service. But being part of these regional and international forums and discussing similar issues is reaffirming to us who believe that more women should be part of national decision-making.

These are some of the things that I try and share with people back home. I have been doing this for 12 years now and I really do believe more women should be encouraged to become leaders.