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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org