EXCESSIVE gambling among women is on the rise in Port Vila and even in the outer islands, where people do nothing but gamble to earn money.
There are also suggestions of women being involved in drinking and even, in some cases, pornography in other islands.
Speaking to the Independent this week, Alice Kaloran, President of the Tongoa/ Shepherds Islands Women’s Association (TSWA) said what they have been doing is holding awareness programs to stop card playing which is the main form of gambling.
“We were interested because it’s an issue that is growing and nobody is even talking about it or even putting an end to it,” she said.
“Last year we did some awareness programs already with this same program in four communities in Port Vila. These areas were Erakor Bridge, Freshwota, Anabrou ward, Manples community and a retreat at Tara Beach organised by a Christian women’s group.
“So far two communities in Port Vila that we visited last year have brought about some change.
“Anabrou ward is one of the local communities that managed to stop card playing and find other activities to make money.
“So this year we went to Tongoa, where we spent about 14 days and consulted with the local chiefs there first about the program.
“Then the police, retired teachers, women leaders, plus SHEFA administrators that are based in Tongoa came and met with the two of us.”
Mrs Kaloran said gambling is a sensitive topic to handle but after the consultations, many came to understand it.
“Because it’s a major issue in Tongoa the majority of the villagers there participate in card playing and so do other things that affect their livelihood,” she said.
“For example we visited a particular village in Tongoa where the villagers played cards every day and they have a particular drink known as ‘Tongoa product’ where it’s like yeast mixed with sugar and fermented for some days to drink, plus they smoke marijuana and it just gets worst.
“A spokeman for one of the village’s chief said in the morning when the local mamas went to work in the gardens by 10am, the gardens seemed very quiet because they came back home.
“The mamas have their shower, get dressed and each pull out a mat and sit down at each corner and play cards till it’s dark.”
Mrs Kaloran said it affected a lot of people.
“Because as we know our culture in Vanuatu, when there is a funeral or a wedding, we usually get mats to attend but the mamas no longer weave mats to take to those occasions which is sad and we are losing our identity,” she said.
“When there is a funeral, they will only get a calico from the shops and they drink too much so there is a lot of noise in the villages.
“This ‘Tongoa product’ drink is growing in to the other villages.
“There is a case in one of the villages where they play cards often and end up doing porno.
“Playing cards is a big issue where the Tongoa people can’t control it.
“Luckily before going there we met with the Police Commissioner, the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs (MCC) and the Tongoa MP, so when we go to Tongoa to consult they were all interested.”
Ms Kaloran said the women usually ask for the money from their husbands in order to go and play cards but if their husband doesn’t want to give the money it then leads to conflict at home.
“Sometimes the mamas get the money for gambling after doing markets and so they steal the money that was to be used to buy food for the family,” she said.
“Also they borrow money from other people and if that person loses it leads to fights because that person cannot refund the money
“In some cases a woman/girl has to sell her body to another man for money to repay it”
Ms Kaloran said this issue of gambling has been going on for three years but it became worse after Pam when the chiefs there cannot control it.
“The church is always empty every Sunday because they usually play cards till late at night and there is nobody to attend the church services; only few people attend,” she said.
“But I believe that the program that we run for behaviour change helps them a lot to see what situation they are in now and helps them to change for a better life.”
Mrs Kaloran looks after this association which covers more than 300 women that are living in Port Vila.
“Inside Port Vila there are around 38 communities that are Tongoa and Shepherd Islands and its aim is to empower men and women to economic,” she said.
“My colleague Jinette Raupepe looks after the Nakororki Youth Association (NYI) at Erakor Bridge so both these two associations are registered under the Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (VANGO) Secretariat.
“The program that we both go for is the Human Rights.
“We both attended some of the workshops about Human Rights since 2015 it pulls our interest so we accept some funding from the Paci c People Advance in change (PPAC).”
She said it’s a new thing in the islands and so far they covered only nine villages there and a site visit in one village.
She said there is a remote village there known as ‘Meriu’ and they are the only ones that do not practice gambling.
“It’s a role model village and people faced difficulties to get to the bank and the ship,” she said.
“This village really demonstrates good gender where men, women and the young people help each other to do the work like weaving mats.
“They came to recognise after Pam that only women weaved mats to earn money so the men can no longer do anything but to join hands and help them by planting together and harvesting more pandanus. So they are getting new patterns of weaving mats day by day and the prices start from VT 1000 to 7000.”
Ms Kaloran said they are using this village to encourage women to weave mats to earn money instead of gambling.
“Many women complain that this is the only way of earning what they call ‘easy money’ but there are many ways to make money,” she said.
“There are many villagers and other islands who are still interested so hopefully we will get there again.”
She said this is not only about gambling because when you get to the islands there are many issues and so it keeps on growing.