Traditionally, Pacific women were confined to the home, while the men would handle most matters outside the immediate family. The clear-cut roles of women as homemaker and men as defender and decision-maker gave stability to village life. In Melanesia and Polynesia the woman was responsible for working the land and doing most of the housework, thus elevating the status of the man as head of the family.
Western education caused many Pacific women to question their subordinate position. Their changing lifestyle made the old relationship between the sexes outmoded. As paid employment expanded, and women, thanks to family planning, could hold jobs, they began to demand equal treatment from society. Polynesian women were more emancipated than their Melanesian sisters, with tradition manipulating it so that women are denied the right to be heard in public on community matters.
Female students were encouraged to go into low-paying fields such as nursing or secretarial services. In garment and other factories, women are exploited via low wages and poor working conditions. Domestic violence was prevalent and, in Fiji, suicide in women is 7 times higher than they world average.
Cite for September Posts: Stanley, D., South Pacific Handbook.