Honoring International Women’s Day, Internet Society Features Chuuk Women’s Council

Reposted from The Internet Society Community Grants Blog:

Inspiring Change: Connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council

Guest Contributor: KiKi Stinnett, President of Chuuk Women’s Council

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The Chuuk Women’s Council is a 31-year-old community based organization on the Pacific island of Chuuk. It serves as the umbrella organization for 64 different women’s organizations Chuuk State Wide, Federated States of Micronesia, which promotes women’s leadership, education on health and gender issues, environmental conservation, and the preservation of traditional and cultural crafts.

 

Kiki Stinnett, President of the Chuuk’s Women’s Council, writes about the installation of an Computer Learning Lab, something that was made possible through the work of Professor Laura Hosman from the Illinois Institute of Technology and an Internet Society Community Grant.

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My name is Kiki Stinnett and I’m the President of the Chuuk Women’s Council, a registered NGO in the Federated States of Micronesia. 

Thirty-one years ago my mother and a group of local women started the CWC. They were mostly nurses and looking for a way to empower women in our community and promote healthier lifestyles.  While I decided to pursue a career in business, I still grew up influences by the CWC and over time it became a part of me.

When my mother passed away in 2009 I was elected President and have served the Chuuk Women’s Council in this capacity since her passing.

As an Islander I’ve always felt that being connected and staying connected with our culture and communities is important. Chuuk is a small island where women have a big voice and the ability to be heard on a wide range of issues.  We have a role to play in our part in the world which is very important.

Finding affordable Internet or even a computer in Chuuk isn’t easy. Many people who don’t live on the capital island of Weno don’t even have electricity, let alone a computer. In the CWC offices, for example, we initially had only 1 computer and it was such a precious commodity only a few designated people were allowed to use it.

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So when Laura Hosman approached us about building a computer lab I knew it would be a perfect fit within our organization, with our core staff, and enhance the work we are doing.

We installed the laptops in our sewing room. In the morning we sew and in the afternoon it’s our computer lab.  We don’t charge for the use of the computers or the access to the internet.   Anyone can come in and use one of the laptops and the Internet.

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It’s been amazing to see the reaction. We have girls as young as 8 coming in to do their homework.  It’s a real change for them because many of our schools don’t even have computers and those that do are usually not connected to the internet.

I’m really excited to see these young girls and visitors do things like reports, research, and learn online.  I mean, instead of spending their time watching boxing or movies on TV they’re now doing something that they consider cool and it’s also applicable to their education.

I really feel that with enough exposure to the Internet and computers these girls could easily be inspired to go on towards being engineers or scientists.

But they aren’t the only ones. One of the oldest women who comes to our center to use our computer and internet is in her 50s.  Many of these young girls and older women can only communicate with their off island children and relatives through Facebook and our center provides them the means to keep up with their loved ones.

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It’s also invaluable when we give health education classes. Imagine seeing a heart actually pumping blood instead of looking at still pictures of it in a book. It’s changed our world.

We also want to set up an online shop for all the crafts that women make for our gift shop.  All the proceeds for those sales will go to funding many of the programs we run through the center.

As mentioned earlier, the computers and the internet also help us keep in touch with friends and family who live in other parts of the world.  That is so important to us as many of our family members live in the United States. It’s amazing to be able to hear from them and let them know about our lives in the Islands.

We’re also very excited to announce that we recently received a grant from the Government of Japan to expand the CWC Facility to include a second floor. This addition will provide another 2,600 sq. feet of space and will mean we will soon have a full time, dedicated computer lab for people to use any time they want.

Internet access and computers in the CWC are opening doors for our entire community and we’re so excited to see where this will take us.

We’re a small Island in Micronesia and because of the Internet we now know that there are people out there who are thinking about us.

What’s Next

The story of connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council isn’t over yet.  They’re currently looking to building a “Train the Trainer” program to improve the skills of those who are using the computer lab.  If you’d like to help you can contact the Women’s Council via their website or email them at cwcfiinchuuk@yahoo.com

Posted in Chuuk, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Women and Technology | Leave a comment

Solar Computer Lab in a Box Versions 3.0 and 3.1

Over the past few months, two groups of dedicated students at IIT have donated their free time and efforts to building new prototypes of the Solar Computer Lab in a Box.

Version 3.0′s new look was the result of a design competition held in Fall, 2012, which was sponsored by IIT’s Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) student organization. The winning design, from Team Yellow Room (consisting of Sunny Patel, Manuel Leon, and Sebastian Morales) is pictured below.

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This design served as the blueprint for Version 3.0, which was was built in IIT’s Idea Shop and completed in September, 2013. Pictured below (L-R) are, Abhiroop Chattopadhyay, Sunny Patel, and Brian Strening, proudly displaying of the fruits of their labors!

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In the following months, ESW commissioned a new hardworking and dedicated team to build version 3.1. Some minor tweaks were made to version 3.0, because there’s always room for improvement! Many thanks go out to John Welin, (below, center) Manager at the Idea Shop, for his ongoing support, enthusiasm, training, demonstrations, etc. Another big thank you to Amanda Rapacz, from ESW, for spearheading the redesign competition and jumpstarting the rebuild teams.

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The current team, hard at work finishing up the final details on Version 3.1, includes (L-R below) Matthew Troemner, Abhimanyu Pudi, and Zhe Soo.

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Below are additional pictures highlighting the workmanship going in to the box building, as well as the unique features of the box. Solar panels are stored on one side, protected with heavy foam padding. Laptops or tablets are stored on the other side, in the compartment that opens and closes, allowing for safe storage of the technology when it’s not in use. There’s also a small compartment to store the table legs. Everything fits into the box that is needed to assemble and power this small computer lab, and the box itself transforms into the lab’s table.

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Once Version 3.1 is finished, we’ll have two Solar Computer Lab Boxes ready to send to Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia. (See these previous posts for additional info on the first deployments.) This semester’s Fieldwork Methods class is developing an Android App that will allow our on-site partners to conduct baseline site surveys on a smartphone or tablet. Our goal is that this application will be used by our partners in Chuuk, and we will be able to help them determine which schools will be the best candidates for the next Solar Computer Labs.

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Posted in Chuuk, IIT, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Solar Computer Lab in a Box, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council Video

This video captures the initial setup of a computer lab at the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC) in Chuuk, FSM, including interviews and initial trainings with the CWC staff, a brief overview of the software included on the laptops and a tour of the lab itself.

Of all the ICT4D projects I’ve been involved with to date, this one holds the greatest promise for empowering, complementing, and amplifying existing capacities, because the CWC already offers so many excellent, community-empowering programs, and has such a strong network among the women of Chuuk. In other words, in this case, the technology of a computer lab at the CWC is simply the icing on the cake!

A big thank you goes out to the Internet Society Community Grants Program and to ISIF Asia for funding provided to make this project possible. Thanks also go out to the Chuuk Women’s Council Staff, for allowing us to talk with them, work with them, and film them! Additional acknowledgements to our partners: the PISCES Project, TR Mori and iSolutions Micronesia, and to Bruce Baikie and Inveneo.

Posted in Chuuk, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Women and Technology | 1 Comment