Pacific women in struggle
Daughters of the Pacific
By Zohl de Ishtar
Spinifex Press. $23.95
Reviewed by Samantha Lazzaro
Zohl de Ishtar first became involved with the Pacific in 1971, when as a student she participated in a camp on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide against French atmospheric nuclear testing in Tahiti-Polynesia. She later became a founding member of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific, and in 1986 she spent a year travelling throughout the Pacific visiting indigenous women on behalf of the Women Working for a Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific.
This book brings together the experiences of women from Guam, Northern Marianas, Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, New Caledonia and many other places in the Pacific.
De Ishtar spoke to indigenous women about their lives, experiences and thoughts about the Pacific region and the impact of nuclear power, colonisation and so-called development.
The book portrays the strong oral tradition and culture they are trying to maintain against the after-effects of colonisation, poverty and separation from their land. The struggle is against devastation by the nuclear industry, waste dumping, ocean pollution and tourism.
Daughters of the Pacific portrays a real will to struggle, whether it is to maintain indigenous culture or against environmental devastation or for a homeland without such injustice. Therese Minotong from Bougainville recalls, "We women protested against the mine in the early 1970s. Bare breasted women lay in front of surveyors' pegs, often with their babies, to stop bulldozers. They were beaten with batons by the police."
In the words of Bernie Keldermans from Belau, "We're not asking or demanding something that is new to the world. What we are asking for are our rights and our land."