News Story

Latter-day Saint Raises Awareness of Challenges Faced by Polynesian Women

Her work at a Tahitian women’s shelter, highlighted at an International Women’s Conference, shows the immediate value of teaching self-reliance

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in French Polynesia, Miresa Buchin has been taught many times about the value of self-reliance. So it was only natural that she offer to teach a course on this topic at the Pu o te Hau Women’s shelter in Pape’ete.

Miresa serves on the Board of Trustees of the Women’s Council of French Polynesia, a group representing 13 different associations in the region, and she represents the women’s organisation of the Church (called the Relief Society) and was able to connect with the shelter.

Through the council, Miresa met Anne Pastor, a documentary filmmaker from France Inter broadcasting group and author of the program, "The Voice of Native Women.”

Ms. Pastor was on assignment in Tahiti to learn about women’s programmes in Polynesia. Anne was invited to visit the Pu o te Hau shelter and to learn about the educational and cultural initiatives offered to the women at the centre.

Anne Pastor expressed her pleasure at having participated in one of the self-reliance classes at the facility.

“I attended the class on the importance of reading at home,” she said. “What was even more amazing was that I saw these women organise a reading workshop with their children just three days after that class, already trying to change the course of their family life. As Polynesians, may you help build a better world and a society more respectful of women's rights."

Ms. Pastor was also in Tahiti to deliver the keynote address at a conference hosted by the Women’s Council. It was held in the national Hall of the Assembly of French Polynesia, with the theme, "Native women: a laboratory of ideas for tomorrow."

She presented five portraits of exemplary women from Quebec, Chad, New Caledonia, Burma and Bhutan, who fight every day to defend the cause of women. She then invited five women from the "Fenua" to make the voice of Polynesians heard. (Note: Fenua is the term used to describe the original land and culture of French Polynesia.)

Miresa was also invited to talk about her teaching of self-reliance principles to native families.

She presented her shelter work, saying: "Thanks to the course on ‘Success in School Begins at Home,’ these women regained their interest in doing new things. They realised they have the power to decide their destiny. I have seen big smiles of hope, tears of healing, and the desire to change their lives!”

Chantal Galenon, President of the French Polynesian Women's Council, recalled: "In French Polynesia, we are fortunate to work in close collaboration with the churches on these issues.”

She continued: “I want to thank them for being there and working hand in hand with the Women's Council to assert women's rights. We would not be as effective without the religious denominations who carry this message to women and families, especially in the most remote islands. Thank you Miresa and the Relief Society for your actions on behalf of our women."

In reflecting on her experiences at the shelter, Miresa feels that great things are achieved through small and simple things, and often thinks of Church President Russell M. Nelson’s words: “It is converted, covenant-keeping women…whose righteous lives will increasingly stand out in a deteriorating world and who will thus be seen as different and distinct in the happiest of ways.” (For complete address, see: A Plea to my Sisters)

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